In a close election, Brad Laurvick will be North Denver’s new school board representative, edging out Julie Banuelos and Tony Curcio 35.44%-34.26%-30.3%. While early returns on election night showed Laurvick leading with Curcio behind him, as results rolled in over the next day, Banuelos began to close the margin, and it wasn’t until Thursday after the election that Laurvick was declared the winner.
Across the city, all three union-backed candidates won — including Tay Anderson (at-large), Brad Laurvick (District 5) and Scott Baldermann (District 1) — changing the makeup of the DPS board, which was previously controlled by a majority of board members backed by education reform groups.
Laurvick said he’s focused on implementing what he and others talked about while running: “I don’t think anything will be a surprise. We want to get resources back in the classroom,” he said, along with changing the role of high stakes testing. DPS’ new Superintendent Susana Cordova was recently hired by the outgoing board, and Laurvick indicated the board will be taking a more active role working with senior staff: “I understand the role of the board to be hiring and oversight of the superintendent. You can delegate responsibility but not accountability.” He doesn’t believe it’s an antagonistic relationship though, noting he was “excited to see how we can implement the board’s vision together.”
Tay Anderson hopes his win can give hope to others from his community: “I think I’ve shown kids they don’t have to get out of the ’hood. They just have to give back to the ’hood,” Anderson said on election night. “This election is a testament to that. Money doesn’t win elections anymore. People do.” Tay said he wanted to thank Denver voters for participating in the election.
As notable as it is for all union-backed candidates to win for the first time in recent memory, Banuelos’ close second place also highlights a pushback on the money that’s poured into school board races and the strength of the Latino vote. Banuelos won more precincts than Laurvick or Curcio, nearly all in Latino neighborhoods, and raised only approximately 10% of what her opponents had.
“We know we went up against a lot this election,” Banuelos’ campaign manager Vinnie Cerventes said in an interview after the final unofficial numbers were reported. He said they are proud of what they accomplished but were frustrated that organizations didn’t respect the Latino community in their endorsement processes. He said Banuelos and their team will stay engaged and work to hold board members accountable.
Denver’s school board elections have become increasingly expensive in recent years, and this year was no different, with candidates and outside organizations combined likely spending over $2 million to win three unpaid positions on the Denver School Board. While the organization Democrats for Education Reform said it was sitting this election out, the similarly named Students for Education Reform Action Committee has led the pack of non-candidate committees with nearly $400,000 in expenditures. The pro-reform organization Better Schools for a Stronger Colorado has come in a close second with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) union coming in third. A related organization opposing reform candidates rounded out fourth place.