Arne Duncan Falcon HS file

In this file photo, Arne Duncan, the then-U.S. Secretary of Education, visits Falcon High School in Falcon on May 9, 2014.

Arne Duncan, the education secretary under President Barack Obama for most of the Democrat's two terms, is endorsing the three Denver Public Schools board candidates who have the support of education reform groups in next month's election.

Duncan on Thursday threw his backing behind Alexis Menocal Harrigan in the DPS at-large race, Diana Romero Campbell in the District 1 race, and Tony Curcio in the District 5 race.

Three of the seven DPS board seats are on the ballot in the Nov. 5 election, and without any incumbents running, control of the board is up for grabs. Candidates supported by the Denver teachers union need to win just two of the three seats to take the majority from reform-oriented members, who have been in charge in the district for years.

Duncan invoked Obama's "education legacy" in his endorsements.

"I am supporting Alexis Menocal Harrigan for the Denver School Board because I am confident she will continue the education legacy of President Barack Obama," Duncan said in a statement released by the candidate's campaign. "Like him, she holds our children to high expectations and believes in their brilliance. They are both persistent on improving student outcomes. Most importantly, Alexis and President Obama agree, all students deserve a high-quality education regardless of their background."

Endorsing Romero Campbell for the southeast Denver District 1 seat, Duncan emphasized the nonprofit director's "expertise in early childhood education."

Said Duncan: "Diana and I agree: The single best investment we can make is in high-quality early childhood education. Our public schools need a board member who understands the district, its history and its potential. Diana has been called to service at a time when communities need experienced local leaders now more than ever."

Duncan stressed the importance of access to a quality education in his endorsement of Curcio, who is running in northwest Denver's District 5.

"Policies that expand access, create transparency, ensure equity and put decision-making into the hands of teachers and principals were the values of the Obama Aadministration, and those are the values that Tony Curcio will bring to the Denver School Board," Duncan said. "That is why I am endorsing Tony Curcio for the Denver School Board in District 5. Tony is the right choice to protect the education legacy of President Obama, and I urge voters to support him in this election."

The three candidates have also been endorsed by pro-reform organizations Stand for Children and Students for Education Reform Action Network Colorado.

Ballots are arriving in voters' mailboxes this week and must be returned to county election officials by 7 p.m. Nov. 5.

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