The State Board of Education is on track to continue its partisan split of four Democrats and three Republicans, after voters in three congressional districts awarded six-year terms to two newcomers, with one incumbent leading as of 8:35 p.m.
Congressional District 1
Unofficial results showed Democrat Lisa Escárcega prevailing 75%-22% over Republican Sydnnia Wulff in the Denver-centered race. She will succeed Valentina "Val" Flores, the first-term incumbent who failed to qualify for the ballot this year. Escárcega, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, received the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association on a platform that included repealing the grading system for individual schools. Libertarian Alan Hayman received 2.3% of the vote, and Zachary Laddison of the Approval Voting Party trailed with 0.5%.
Congressional District 3
First-term Republican incumbent Joyce Rankin was ahead of her Democratic challenger Mayling Simpson by 54%-46% as of 8:35. The seat covers much of the Western Slope. Rankin is an advocate for school choice and charter schools. She is also a proponent of future instructors acquiring science-based reading teaching skills as part of their education.
"It's not over till it's over, but I will be very happy to serve," Rankin said on Tuesday night. "I will continue to pursue what I have worked on since I was appointed to the board in 2015 — and that is reading, and how our students are not proficient at reading at a third grade level. Only 40% are proficient, so we need to do some work in the area of reading."
She added: "COVID will be over soon but if a child can't read, that's their life."
Congressional District 7
Karla Esser, the Democratic candidate in the campaign to succeed two-term Democratic board member Jane Goff, had captured 63% of the vote as of 8:35. Her Republican opponent, Nancy Pallozzi, had received 37% for the district that covers the northern and western suburbs of Denver. Esser is a former social studies and language teacher and also the former director of graduate programs at Regis University. Her platform supported a reevaluation of Colorado's measurement of academic progress tool in order to more precisely instill accountability.
Esser on Tuesday night thanked the Colorado Education Association and parents in Jefferson County for their support of her campaign.
"As a newbie, you don't expect that many people to come to your aid and give you advice and help you know what you need to know to support this particular community," Esser said. "I'm very pro-public education. I'm a lifelong educator and I really appreciate my opponent. I think the message of anti-public education and more toward the private schooling is what made the difference, that I am pro-public education. I'm very much for parent choice as long as we recognize that neighborhood and community schools need to be as good as they can be."
She added that she hoped the SBE would support suicide prevention programs and mental health providers to combat the state's high rate of teen suicide, and to intervene before academic testing begins to address achievement gaps.
The State Board of Education regulates educator licensing, sets policies and standards for education in the state and accredits public schools.