Breaking News
More () »

Why you should care about the Denver school board elections

The Denver Public School Board controls more than half of the city’s taxpayer money, which is more than city government.

DENVER — A Denver software entrepreneur has invested more than $325,000 of his own money to campaign for a seat that doesn’t pay anything — a seat on the Denver Public School (DPS) board.

According to the latest fillings to the Secretary of State’s office, Scott Baldermann has raised $352,524 as of Oct. 16. That’s the most any candidate for the 2019 DPS board race has raised. 

Below is an interactive graph of the campaign contributions and expenditures of each candidate in the DPS board race for 2019:

Why should you care?

The DPS Board controls more than half of the city’s taxpayer money, more than the city government does.

The City of Denver said 62% of total general taxes go to DPS.

DPS’s annual budget, including all grants, food service and capital, is $1.5 billion. Compare that to the City of Denver’s annual budget of $1.4 billion in the General Fund. 

For a job that pays nothing, the three candidates running in southeast Denver’s District 1 race have raised nearly half a million dollars ($485,310.00). 

That includes Baldermann.

Credit: City of Denver

District 1 DPS Candidates

Baldermann is a software entrepreneur with two children in Lincoln Elementary School.

He has no apologies for self-funding and said he does it to fight off out-of-state interests going into school board campaigns. 

"I wish I didn't have to self-fund like this," he said.

Baldermann is funded and supported by the teacher’s union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA).

Diana Romero Campbell comes from a family of DPS teachers and has children in the district herself.

"I have worked and have advocated on behalf of women, children and families my entire career," she said.

She has the second biggest campaign funding in the DPS District 1 race ($98,182).

Romero Campbell said her funds come from individuals and family members. 9NEWS found contributions from charter school supporters on campaign filings. 

One of her largest donations is from Emma Bloomberg, a New Yorker who sits on the board of KIPP charter schools. 

"You don't do that without building relationships and knowing a number of people in our community," she said.

Dr. Radhika Nath is a parent of two DPS students. Nath claims she is a community-funded candidate on her website. She said she counts on the support of many community advocates and leaders.

She has the smallest budget of the three candidates as of Oct. 16, with $34,604.

According to campaign filings, Nath’s biggest single donor is Susan Barnes Gelt, a Denver resident and former city councilmember.

"If you're pouring this kind of money into the race that you're getting from corporate interest of your own funding – who are you serving?" she asked during a rally Thursday.

Nath talked about how she thinks it's not fair for community candidates like her to compete against private money.

"Our democracy is up for sale, and what's more, our children and their education is up for sale to the highest bidder, and it's not okay," she said.

Campaign Contribution Caps

School board races in Colorado don’t have campaign contribution caps, according to the Colorado Secretary of State campaign finance manual. 

School board directors are considered “county officers” in the state of Colorado, and therefore have no campaign funding limits.

That’s different from state legislator races, where candidates have a $200 cap per person for the general election.

Baldermann, Romero Campbell and Nath said they all want to see more rules around campaign contributions, including donation caps.

The Election

On Nov. 5, Denver will vote for seven seats on the DPS board. They oversee the recently appointed superintendent, Susana Cordova.

This year’s ballots have already been mailed.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS | Local stories from 9NEWS

Before You Leave, Check This Out