School board races (and school reform, in general) sure are expensive

The final tally of money raised in last November's contentious Denver Public Schools school board election is in. And according to Education News Colorado reporter Nancy Mitchell, that tally is "jaw-dropping."

The three non-incumbent candidates who won seats on the seven-member board raised a total of $312,191. The bulk of that was collected by at-large candidate Mary Seawell, who pulled in $240,605. Of that, $144,350 came from a single donor -- local investor Thomas Gamel, who gave a total of $237,558 to three candidates. According to Mitchell, that's a record.

Throughout the race, Seawell billed herself as a reformer who supported charter schools. She won a board seat alongside two union-backed candidates -- Andrea Merida and Nate Easley, Jr. -- who were seen as more skeptical of charters. (Read more about the new board members' opinions on charter schools in the sidebar to this week's feature on the closing of P.S. 1 Charter School, "Three New DPS Boardmembers Talk Charters.")

Why do their opinions matter? Because "reform" (which in some cases includes charter schools) is a hot topic in education these days. And the more of it there is, the better Colorado's chances at winning $377 million in federal Race to the Top grant money -- funds made available to states for school reform by the Obama administration. Colorado sent its grant application to Washington today.

"Colorado has been racing to the top for years," Gov. Bill Ritter said at a news conference to announce the delivery of the application. "This proposal will accelerate our reforms of the last three years and give Colorado a blueprint for future reforms regardless of whether we secure a Race to the Top grant."

But the cash couldn't hurt. School reform, like school board races, is pricey.

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