Campaign money topic of school candidate forum
Campaign contributions and the possibility of ideological strings coming attached to them were debated Monday evening at a District 51 School Board candidate forum hosted by The Latin-Anglo Alliance and the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce.
A question-and-answer session with the audience at the forum opened with former District 51 School Board member Dan Robinson asking candidates Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein, and John Sluder why they accepted $5,000 each from Greenwood Village donor C. Edward McVaney, a co-founder of JD Edwards and large contributor to Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.
Robinson asserted McVaney gave the money so the trio would support a voucher system in District 51 similar to the one that benefited Valor Christian by using public funds to help cover private school tuition until a lawsuit temporarily suspended the program.
Lowenstein said he resented Robinson’s assumption that he would let McVaney’s check shape his views. He said he talked to a representative of McVaney’s on the phone and told him the money “would not change my views no matter how much money” McVaney gave.
He later added he is undecided on vouchers and needs to “study the problem.”
Sluder, who said his positive comments on vouchers have referred to public charter schools and not private schools, argued it was hypocritical to argue money from a “donor that supports our values” was a problem but that $3,000 in donations from local teacher representation group Mesa Valley Education Association to candidates Tom Parrish and Greg Mikolai was acceptable.
The association also made postcards supporting Mikolai, Parrish and candidate John Williams and paid for items such as campaign pens and polling.
“This was a David and Goliath race,” Sluder said, referring to the nearly $25,000 Mikolai, Parrish and Williams have raised from all sources compared to the total of less than $18,000 that has come in for Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder as of Oct. 10.
“None of my donors will be negotiating a contract with MVEA ... I really see a conflict of interest,” Sluder said.
Williams took exception to the David and Goliath comparison, noting all campaign contributions were revealed publicly on the same day, Oct. 15.
“To take the money on the excuse they’re being out-fundraised doesn’t pass the test for me,” he said.
Mikolai said it isn’t fair to say McVaney’s donation has no influence on the way candidates will act if elected but that MVEA donations will.
Even after MVEA donated $3,000 to his 2009 campaign for the board, Mikolai said he “voted my conscience” when he negotiated pay cuts for teachers the first two years he served on the board, opposed MVEA-backed support for a four-day school week, and voted with the board to approve two charter schools.