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Newcomers vying for a seat on the Utah Board of Education are raising more campaign funds than their incumbent opponents, according to disclosure reports released last week.
And one candidate raised more than the other 30 prospective board members combined.
That candidate, Dan Tippetts of West Valley City, reported total contributions of $22,974 for the fundraising period that ended May 11.
Of that total, $20,000 was donated by Leadership for Educational Equity, a Washington, D.C.-based social welfare organization affiliated with Teach For America, which places short-term educators in low-income schools.
"They support people who want to show educational leadership in the community," Tippetts said of the group.
Tippetts is running for the board's District 7 seat against incumbent Leslie Castle, who reported self-funded contributions totaling $380 for the same January-to-May period.
Castle has served two terms on the state school board and said she has never accepted money from donors.
Rather than raise funds, she said, she spends her campaign time answering constituent emails and attending school community council meetings
"That's how I think it should be," she said. "I don't know how to campaign, except what I'm doing."
But she said she is feeling extra pressure to raise funds this year as she prepares to face six challengers in the June primary election.
"I am thinking about maybe trying something else," Castle said.
Several school board campaigns are currently self-funded, while others reported a zero fundraising balance as of May 11.
Excluding Tippetts' campaign, the combined total of all school board contributions reported between Jan. 1 and May 11 was $15,388.
The state's campaign disclosure website did not show a May report for District 10 candidate Kathleen Riebe.
Brad Asay, Utah president of the American Federation of Teachers, reported receiving $2,216 for his District 4 race against incumbent board vice-chairman David Thomas, whose report showed no contributions and a negative balance after expenses.
Gary Thompson raised $1,290 for his race against board President David Crandall, who did not receive any contributions between January and May.
And James Moss raised $3,050; his incumbent opponent Dixie Allen raised $350.
Allen, who was first elected to the board in 2002, said she thinks controversial issues like Common Core has led to extra interest and money being put into the school board elections this year.
She said she hasn't actively raised funds or paid attention to her opponents' disclosures.
"I've never let that be an issue for me," she said. "I just do the best with what I've got."
Tippetts taught high school geometry in Denver between 2009 and 2012 as a Teach For America corps member.
He said he's proud to have the support of Leadership for Educational Equity which promotes political campaigns and leadership positions for Teach for America alumni but emphasized that he does not answer to the organization.
"Teach for America doesn't have any say or influence over my campaign," he said.
Largest state school board candidate donations as of May:
Dan Tippetts: $22,974*
James Moss: $3,050
Brad Asay: $2,216
Gary Thompson: $1,290
Neil Walter: $1,285*
Shelly Teuscher: $1,140*
David Sharette: $1,000
Jennifer Graviet: $909
Richard Nelson: $725
Lisa Cummins: $505*
Brent Strate: $470*
Leslie Castie (Incumbent): $380*
*Includes candidates' self-funded contributions