The Denver teachers union has endorsed three school board candidates calling for change in a district known for embracing education reform policies.
The endorsements are significant because the Denver Classroom Teachers Association historically spends big to help elect its slate of candidates. In the last school board election in 2017, a political committee associated with the union spent nearly $200,000 in support of its chosen candidates.
Adding to the significance this year is the union’s heightened profile. A three-day teacher strike in February enjoyed widespread support from parents and community members who sympathized with the red-shirted teachers on the picket line and agreed they should be paid more.
In a three-way race for a school board seat representing the city at-large, the union endorsed Tay Anderson, a recent graduate of Denver Public Schools who now works as restorative practices coordinator for the district, helping students resolve conflicts.
This is Anderson’s second time running for school board. He did not earn the union’s endorsement when he ran for a different seat in 2017. Even so, Anderson was active during the teacher strike, leading chants with a megaphone and staying through the night as the union and the district negotiated the final deal.
In a three-way race for a seat representing northwest Denver, the union endorsed Brad Laurvick, a Methodist pastor and father of a rising second-grader who gave a speech on the state Capitol steps in support of teachers during the strike.
And in a four-way race for a seat representing southeast Denver, the union endorsed Scott Baldermann, who previously served as the president of the parent-teacher association at his children’s school and helped raise money for striking teachers there.
The three candidates hold similar views. Anderson has said he wants to increase the number of mental health workers in Denver schools. Laurvick has called for greater financial transparency from the district. And Baldermann has said he’d like to reduce the amount of standardized testing.
“We are proud to endorse Tay, Scott, and Brad,” acting union president Rob Gould said in a statement Tuesday. “These candidates will fight alongside students, community members, and educators to change the failed policies of the last ten years of corporate-led ‘reform’ in DPS.”
The momentum from the teachers strike has given way to a movement to “flip the board” to elect a majority of school board members who oppose Denver Public Schools’s reform policies.
Candidates supportive of those policies — which have included closing struggling schools, paying teachers based on merit, and nurturing the expansion of independently run charter schools — dominated school board elections for years, allowing the policies to continue.
But in 2017, that started to shift. Two candidates that were, to varying degrees, skeptical of school closures and charter schools were elected to the board with union support. If two more such candidates are elected, anti-reformers will hold the board majority for the first time ever.
The union’s endorsements are made by a committee of members called the DCTA Fund. Per campaign finance rules, it is the fund that donates money to candidates, not the union itself.
Separate from the union, a coalition of community groups that also want to “flip the board” is expected to make its own endorsements. It’s not clear whether the coalition will endorse the same slate, but it was formed with the goal of coalescing support around a single candidate in each race.
Here’s a rundown of all the candidates who have declared thus far, in alphabetical order. Candidates have until Aug. 30 to jump into the race. The election is Nov. 5.
Northwest Denver, District 5
Southeast Denver, District 1