Politics, money and school-board campaigns
The news this week that a wealthy, retired Front Range businessman has contributed $5,000 apiece to three conservative candidates running for the Mesa County School District 51 Board of Education has left some people aghast, as letters on this page today demonstrate.
For others locally, the fact that the Mesa Valley Education Association — the teachers’ union —contributed $3,000 plus services to other school board candidates is equally troubling.
We, like many others in this community, are dismayed that what have traditionally been nonpolitical school board races are becoming increasingly the opposite, with campaign funding beginning to flow to candidates in these races in larger and larger amounts.
However, both sources of funding listed above are legal under Colorado law. What’s critical for voters is to have access to that information so they can decide for themselves whether the contributions provide a reason to vote for or against a particular candidate. In that regard, Emily Shockley’s reporting in The Daily Sentinel the past few days has provided invaluable information to District 51 voters trying to evaluate candidates in this year’s school board race.
In both cases mentioned above, the contributors unquestionably hope for something in return from the candidates they back. That most likely means board members supportive of charter schools and vouchers, in the case of Greenwood Village resident Ed McVaney. When it comes to MVEA, it’s board members friendly to the teachers’ union and its concerns, especially during contract negotiations.
Increasing politicization of school board races may be the wave of the future for this and other communities, although we hope that isn’t the case. However, regarding campaign contributions, as we have long argued, timely transparency is the key so that voters can see who’s contributing to whom and how that might influence the candidates.