DENVER | Following a cycle of school board elections with record-breaking campaign contributions, state law now dictates the amount of money that individual donors and groups can give to school board candidates.
Signed into law by Gov. Polis on Wednesday, House Bill 1060 caps individual contributions to $2,500 and small donor committee contributions to $25,000 per candidate. It will not limit spending by independent expenditure committees, however.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Emily Sirota (D-Denver) and Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver).
“Lack of contrib. limits to candidates for school board created a statewide problem of outsized contributions from wealthy individuals leading to (questions) from voters about who our board members are beholden to,” Sirota said on social media Wednesday, thanking those who helped the bill become law.
Following heated debates about COVID-19 health policies, how to address diversity and equity in the classroom and other issues, school board races became the subject of unusually high interest and spending in the fall election.
According to reporting from Chalkbeat Colorado, people contributed over $2.8 million to 213 school board campaigns across the state, and independent expenditure committees spent another $2.1 million on school board races.
Arapahoe County was no exception. According to Chalkbeat, $43,000 of the more than $177,000 in individual contributions raised by Cherry Creek School District candidates was over the new limit. In Aurora Public Schools, only $5,000 out of over $67,000 was above the limit.
According to campaign finance data, Cherry Creek school board candidates Kristin Allan, Bill Leach, Jennifer Gibbons and Kelly Bates all received individual contributions over $2,500, with Gibbons receiving $10,000 from Debra Tuchman and Bates receiving over $40,000 from Terrance Bates. Allan and Bates won their races.
In Aurora Public Schools, candidate Anne Keke, who was elected, received one contribution of $5,000 and defeated candidate Danielle Tomwing, who received two $5,000 contributions.