Colorado K-12 Election Roundup: Fiscal Restraint Beats Prop 103, Most Local Taxes; Reformers Win Key Races

Update, 11/2: One quick correction, as Englewood voters appear to have approved the construction bond / BEST grant, but turned down the mill levy override. Also, a great roundup of school board election results in El Paso County from the Gazette.

From school board races to mill levy and bond measures, there are a number of issues pertaining to education in Colorado being decided this evening. Well known is the fate of the Proposition 103 “For the Children” tax hike — which not only crashed and burned but also disintegrated in a ball of blue-hot flame (64% No vote at last count). Two out of three Denver Public Schools board seats went to the reform ticket, with a third between challenger Jennifer Draper-Carson and incumbent Arturo Jimenez literally too close to call at this hour.

Disappointing news in my own backyard of Jefferson County, where the reform, Republican-backed “Dads” ticket of Jim Powers and Preston Branaugh were defeated. In my mind, though, the story of the night has to be in Douglas County — where a unanimous majority in favor of the nation’s first school board-initiated voucher-like program appears headed for complete electoral vindication. Other lesser-touted school board results of note:

  • In Adams 12, the state’s fifth-largest district, conservative Mark Clark won re-election and was joined by challenger Norm Jennings, who won a convincing victory (Republican-backed Richard Ezo lost his race)
  • In Colorado Springs 11, the largest district in the Pikes Peak region, conservative Bob Null was re-elected and joined by former district communications director Elaine Naleski (sadly, reform-minded Lisanne McNew was defeated)
  • In Greeley, two strong reform candidates prevailed to take three seats in a pair of races that featured 14 candidates: Scott Rankin and Logan Richardson (fellow conservative Geoff Broughton did not prevail, however)
  • In both Poudre (Fort Collins) and Lewis-Palmer 38 (El Paso County), reform-minded slates all sadly went down to defeat
  • Conservative Ann Tisue beat out her liberal opponent in Mesa County 51 and Jeff Leany cruises through unopposed, marking a likely shift in the reform direction for what is by far the largest district on the Western Slope
  • Conservative Bob Kerrigan, who boldly came out against the local mill levy in Thompson School District, has an unofficial narrow lead of 228 votes — though even if he wins, he might be a lone voice of dissent on the board (where have I seen that before?)
  • Falcon 49 incumbent treasurer Andy Holloman finished third in a four-way race for two seats — I’m not entirely clear what the results mean for the district’s bold innovation plans, but I will be digging for answers
  • Conservative Karen Hoopes — wife of 2010 Republican state legislative candidate Kaarl Hoopes — looks very much like she has won a spot on the Mapleton Board of Education

A mixed bag, but all in all a positive signal for the conservative reform team against the always well-organized forces of the status quo. Meanwhile, a host of local mill levy, bond and BEST facility matching grant elections were held tonight. I haven’t been able to do a full roundup, but the results by-and-large appear to have been carried down with Senator Rollie Heath’s Proposition 103. These include the following tax and debt elections, which according to unofficial results all appear headed for defeat:

  • Douglas County Schools
  • Mesa County 51
  • Pueblo County 70
  • Thompson R-2J (Loveland)
  • Brighton 27J
  • Englewood Public Schools
  • Sheridan 2
  • Bennett 29J
  • Falcon 49
  • Peyton 23 JT
  • Eagle County Schools
  • Garfield County Re-2
  • Garfield County 16
  • Weld County Re-1

A handful of districts (mostly small- or medium-sized) I’ve been able to find defied the odds and achieved victory, including:

  • Mill levy overrides in Cheyenne Mountain 12, Roaring Fork (Glenwood Springs) and Byers 32J
  • BEST matching funds grant elections, primarily to construct new schools, in Ellicott 22, Big Sandy 100J, and Prairie Re-11

Not all results were easily available, but the large sample indicates a clear majority of the school district tax and debt elections (and especially in the larger districts) failed. Seeing some success in the matching funds grant elections is not so surprising, since the local tax dollar’s power is effectively doubled in the voter’s mind. I’m sure some will want to know what the three successful MLO districts did to persuade their local voters.

In the final estimation, taking what you can from an off-year election, tonight’s results are a resounding vote for fiscal restraint and an encouraging (if not perfect) result for local reform. Given the hand they’ve been dealt, what will the new reform (and status quo) board members do next? Stay tuned….

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