Confirmed: $200,000+ in Union Funds Back Dougco School Board Candidates
By Ben DeGrow
A last-minute election report confirms what reform opponents in the hotly-contested Douglas County school board race long have sought to deflect or deny. Namely, the challenge of the pro-reform board in this month’s election is bankrolled by the American Federation of Teachers national union.
On Friday, November 1, the independent expenditure group “The Committee for Better Schools Now” filed its first and only campaign finance report with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The committee, which officially registered on September 12, is organized “to support candidates who are focused on what’s best for children rather than adult style politics for Douglas County School Board of Education.”
The Committee for Better Schools Now reports $230,500 in contributions, as follows:
- American Federation of Teachers (Washington, DC) $110,000
- Committee for Great Douglas County Schools $70,000
- American Federation of Teachers Colorado $40,000
- Colorado WINS $10,000
- National Association of Letter Carriers $500
All of the funding sources represent elements of organized labor. Nearly two-thirds of the money comes directly from the state and national union affiliates disenfranchised from Douglas County last year. The second-largest contributor, Committee for Great Douglas County Schools, is an entity financed by the AFT Solidarity 527 Committee. Colorado WINS is a “union representing more than 31,000 state employees” created after former Gov. Bill Ritter’s November 2007 executive order.
The Committee for Better Schools Now’s reported expenditures include nearly $75,000 to produce television ads, more than $64,000 for mailings, $30,741 to create “doorhanger” fliers, and a large number of payments ranging from $60 to $1,500 to various individuals for “Consultant and Professional Services.”
Another registered political committee, “Douglas County Parents,” has reported a total of only $5,201.97 in contributions and expenditures from individuals to support the same slate of school board candidates challenging the pro-reform ticket.
The newly-released campaign finance reports contradict repeated claims that the opposition to the current Douglas County school board and its widely acclaimed reform program is a grassroots project that has nothing to do with the union.
In September 2012 the Douglas County Board of Education ratified new policies that excluded the local AFT affiliate as a teacher bargaining agent, that stopped collecting union dues, and ended the practice of paying unaccountable union officers nearly $300,000 a year in taxpayer funds.
The practice of paying union officers occurred during the tenure of former Douglas County human resources director Bill Hodges, one of the candidates supported by The Committee for Better Schools Now. At an October 2 forum in Castle Rock, Hodges declared his interest in bringing the union back to the negotiating table.
The other union-funded challengers are Barbra Chase, Julie Keim, and Ronda Scholting. The four candidates, including two incumbents, who are endorsed by the Douglas County Republican Party are Doug Benevento, Meghann Silverthorn, James Geddes, and Judith Reynolds.