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Follow the money

School district races see record-setting infusion

Deborah Hendrix
  • Deborah Hendrix

Money from special interests continues to flow into Colorado Springs school board elections, and at the current rate could top $1 million -- far eclipsing the estimated $150,000 that a group of millionaires injected into School District 11 two years ago to elect supporters of private-school vouchers.

Rally in Support of Education, or RISE, a group that accuses such "school choice" candidates of plotting to demolish public schools, had raised more than $450,000 as of last week. The organization is plunging the money into radio and TV ads and mailings in the city's largest school district, D-11, and, as of last week, also Harrison District 2.

Cindee Will
  • Cindee Will

If RISE's efforts are matched by opposing groups, which are allowed to collect unlimited campaign contributions, total fund-raising easily could exceed $1 million.

While RISE has been up-front about its supporters, at least one group supporting pro-voucher candidates has refused to disclose its sources of funding.

Denver-based Parents Targeting Achievement is distributing fliers praising two of the eight candidates running for three D-2 seats on Nov. 1: Cindee Will, a charter school teacher, and Deborah Hendrix, a local businesswoman. The organization claims to be exempt from filing campaign-finance reports.

Linda Pugh
  • Linda Pugh

Will and Hendrix tout "school choice" and are the only D-2 candidates supporting the expansion of charter schools.

On the other side, RISE is planning a last-minute volley of fliers hyping Linda Pugh, a nurse, and Richard L. Price, a longtime Harrison principal. RISE spokeswoman Cynthia Nimerichter says her group isn't specifically endorsing the candidates.

"Price and Pugh do share our values," she says.

Richard L. Price
  • Richard L. Price

None of the candidates claim any formal relationship with the groups.

Medical supply company heiress Pat Stryker of Fort Collins and state Board of Education member Jared Polis are RISE's newest contributors, giving $70,000 and $5,000, respectively, according to recent filings.

Denver software mogul Tim Gill, Ken Gart of the Gart Sports family, and the state's teachers' union also have made major contributions to RISE.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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