Douglas County's school district logo
Douglas County’s school district logo

A union-backed committee is spending big money on the Douglas County school board race, despite protests from candidates that they have not received union support.

The Committee for Better Schools Now, which supports the candidates opposing the policies of the current board, has received $150,000 in contributions from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its local affiliate. The AFT represents Douglas County teachers, whose collective bargaining agreement with the district lapsed in 2012 after talks failed.

The committee describes itself as being for candidates “who are focused on what’s best for children, rather than adult style politics for Douglas County School Board of Education.” The slate of candidates who oppose the current direction of the district use similar language, calling themselves “4 for kids candidates.” They include Bill Hodges, a former school district administrator, Barbra Chase, Julie Keim and Ronda Scholting. None of them received direct union support for their campaigns.

Their opposition includes Judi Reynolds, CU regent Jim Geddes and incumbent board members Doug Benevento and Meghann Silverthorn.

According to reports filed Friday, the committee received $110,000 from the national branch of the AFT in Washington, D.C. An additional $40,000 came from the Colorado branch of the AFT. The committee also received $70,000 from the Committee for Great Douglas County Schools, which is not registered with the Secretary of State. However, the Committee for Great Douglas County Schools, which is based in Castle Rock, received $28,713 from the AFT earlier this year, according to IRS filings. A final $10,000 came in from Colorado Wins, a union representing state employees.

The Committee for Better Schools Now has raised more than all the school board candidates combined, who raised a total of $221,563. The committee has spent $197,310 since Sept. 26, including $74,449 on television advertising.

The Douglas County Republic Central Committee also contributed to the race, spending $45,786 in the latest reporting period. That includes $15,666 spent on advertising.

Despite union participation at the committee-level, candidates supporting the current board out-raised critics at the candidate level. Supporters of the board raised an average of $41,282, whereas opponents raised an average $14,108. They also outspent them at a narrower margin, $28,639 to $13,132. The most successful opposition candidate was Ronda Scholting, who raised $19,726 in the current period and spent $19,073.

All four candidates who are supportive of current board actions received $1,000 donations from former Florida governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Bush wrote an editorial Friday in support of the current board.

See below for a breakdown by race of how much candidates have raised and spent since Oct. 15.

District B

  • Chase – Raised $2,090 in this reporting period, bringing her total to $10,325. She spent $9,783 during the period, leaving her with $541 on-hand.
  • Geddes – Raised $1,720 during the reporting period, bringing his fundraising total to $40,518. He spent $17,695 since October 15, leaving him with $11,681 on-hand.

District D

  • Keim – Raised $4,040, brining her total to $11,162 over the course of the campaign. She spent $6,840 during the reporting period and has $530 on-hand.
  • Reynolds – Raised $1,565 since October 15. That brings her total contributions to $40,297. She spent $11,264 in the period and has $20,630 on-hand.

District E

  • Benevento – Raised $3,433 in the reporting period, which brings his total fundraising to $43,443, the most of any candidate. He spent $34,730 during the period, also the most of any candidate in the race. He has $8,410 on-hand.
  • Hodges – Raised $3,775 since October 15. That brings his total to $15,220. She spent $7,126 during the period and has $2,179 on-hand.

District G

  • Scholting – Raised $4,200 during the reporting period, the most of any candidate. That brought her total to $19,727. She spent $13016, making her second only to her opponent in spending for this period. She has $653 on-hand.
  • Silverthorn – Raised $1,710 since October 15, bringing her total fundraising take to $40,873. She spent $20,564 this period, the most of any candidate. She spent $30,229 total and has $10,896 on-hand.