Education, Elections, Sherrie Peif, Steamboat Springs

Union funding reaching new heights in Steamboat

It appears Colorado teachers union leaders are not focused entirely on larger districts.

Campaign revenue and expense reports due Wednesday show the Colorado Education Association (CEA) donated $3,500 to two Steamboat Springs Board of Education candidates they hope will flip the reform tide in the mountain school district of 2,500.

The matter of how, when, and who donated the money, however, is suspect.

The two candidates at issue, Michelle Dover and Margaret Huron, both got big boosts to their campaign funds in early October to the tune of $1,750 each.

Steamboat Today reported the donations came from a “group of local teachers via a CEA Small Donor Committee,” but that isn’t entirely true.

In a roundabout way, it did come from the Public Education Committee – the small donor committee created by CEA — that many union-member Steamboat teachers likely contribute to, whether they know it or not.

Colorado Education Association
File photo: Todd Shepherd

Special rules apply to a Small Donor Committee that aren’t available to other political committees and private donors. SDCs are committees set up by an organization that cannot allow for any donor to donate more than $50 in any one year. Organizations — in this case the CEA — can divert up to $19.99 from each of its members’ dues to the fund. Members may then also donate an additional $30 to the fund, and if done in increments of less than $19.99, it all remains anonymous.

Most importantly, perhaps, SDCs are allowed to donate to campaigns in much larger increments than PACs or individuals, sometimes up to 10 times the amount.

Not only are the donations to Dover and Huron the largest single donations to both their campaigns – making up more than 75 percent of the total raised in both cases ($2,310 and $1,950, respectively) and coming at a time when teacher unions across the state are decrying “big, outside money contributions” to reform candidates — but the donations are surrounded by questions.

First, the two women’s initial filings with the Secretary of State’s office reported the money was donated by CEA President Kerrie Dallman. Also at question is the fact both women amended their filings within two minutes of each other the day after they were due to say the money came from the SDC instead.

None of the women — Dover, Huron, or Dallman — responded to requests for clarification.

President of the Steamboat Springs School District Re-2 Roger Good said he’s never seen the union get involved in the school board election in the more than dozen years he’s been in Steamboat.

In addition to the union-backed candidates’ own campaigning, an ad on a local radio station supporting the two is being paid for by “Every Student Deserves Opportunity.” The independent expenditure committee is based out of Thornton. The cost of that ad is unknown. The committee’s reports are not due until January.

By comparison, Dover and Huron’s three challengers—Joseph Andrew, Anne Lowe, and Lindsay Wert—have raised $0, $200, and $1,151, respectively. They have also taken personal loans of $300, $1,500, and $1,000, respectively, unlike Dover and Huron, who are operating their campaigns loan free.

“Two years ago when I ran, I spent less than $2,000 on pop up ads in the newspaper and signs,” Good said.

But he also said the reason CEA would get involved is very simple.

“They do not like Roger Good,” he said with a laugh.

Good has voted in favor of several changes since taking office two years ago, as other school reform board member across the state have, such as opening teacher negotiations before proposition 104 became law, and scheduling those meetings at night when more citizens could attend.

“We don’t need to be hiring substitute teachers to cover fulltime teachers so they can come to a meeting to negotiate their own salary.”


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