In 2014, I was lucky enough in the Denver Public Schools lottery to get into the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST): Cole High School. That meant I’d be a part of the first graduating class at Cole. I was going to be a part of founding a completely new school. And now, the ideas that allowed Cole to be created are under attack from everyone, everywhere. Going to Cole has been an experience that has changed who I am and how I think more than anything else. Nearly every piece I’ve written on this site has stemmed from what I’ve learned at Cole. And if I could, I’d make sure every student in the world got the education I’ve gotten. So, in the return of Let’s Get Political, we’ll discuss the hot topic on the table in Denver and in Colorado this fall: Education.
Today, I’ll also make my endorsements for the Denver Public Schools Board of Education (click here to see who I won’t be endorsing). I’ll tell you how our education system could look in a perfect world. And, like last time, I won’t hold back about how I feel on some of these issues.
The education system in Colorado, while not great, is set up to run in a way that could make it the best education system in the country. So the first issue around education I want to approach is actually not really related to education. It’s Colorado’s idiotic constitution. Within the constitution, it’s painfully difficult to raise taxes, or redirect funding to schools, or for the state to go a little into debt to aid in school funding. Thus, some school, especially in rural areas of the state, face the same funding levels they had in the 1980s, which has led to budget cuts that include 4-day weeks, fewer teachers, and no money for the arts. So the first piece of policy I’m going to advocate for changing are the amendments to the Colorado constitution that include TABOR (the taxpayer’s bill of rights), Amendment 23, and the Gallagher Amendment. They may have seemed smart when they were passed, but they aren’t working now.
But let’s look at what Colorado’s doing right when it comes to education. Colorado has a unique system for charter schools that requires charters to be public schools without admissions requirements. This has allowed for charters like DSST to do their job and flourish in serving kids from disenfranchised backgrounds with top tier educations without privatized charters.
So now, let’s move into what I really want to talk about today: the 2 sides of the race for the DPS school board. We have our reform candidates, and our anti-reform candidates. (And we also have candidates who struggle to really take stances on anything but I’ll leave them alone.)
On the reform side, we have candidates who believe in replicating good schools everywhere, be them traditional, charter, or innovation schools. They aren’t opposed to closing schools that are repeatedly failing kids.
On the anti-reform side, we have candidates who want to leave failing schools open and want to keep trying to make them work, as more and more students are let down by the system and get off track. They want to shut down charter schools because they think Betsy DeVos is running them (last time I checked, Betsy DeVos is a racist who works for a racist, and neither of them would want to see schools – charter or traditional – helping low-income students of color succeed). In other words, they’re okay with failing Denver’s students.
I think you can tell what side I’m on.
Yes, reform candidates have backing from big-name groups outside of Denver and outside of Colorado. But last time I checked, those groups want what’s best for every student, and are all liberal Democrats too. And the anti-reform candidates want to claim they don’t have big money behind them. But they get backing from the teacher’s unions, which I think are the worst type of unions. Which brings me to my next point.
I despise teacher’s unions. Teacher’s unions want to keep failing teachers in schools. They don’t believe in accountability. They don’t like schools closing because that means teachers are out of work (last time I checked, we have a shortage of teachers, so no one’s complaining there). They may have been founded on good beliefs, but they have since turned against that into political machines that could destroy our education system. I think unions are a great thing. Just not teacher’s unions.
Equity and success need to be the top issues concerning us when it come schools, and we can get there when we replicating high performing schools, regardless of what type of schools they are. Over the past 4 or so years, the DPS school board has turned Denver’s schools around, and they are now the highest performing schools in Colorado, and are performing better than ever before. Now why on earth would anyone want to vote against the people who have made that happen?
So, here are my endorsements for the school board races in DPS at-large, District 3, and District 4 (the District 2 seat is also up, but I will not be making an endorsement as I am not informed enough on the candidates and have little involvement in that district).
DPS at-large is voted on by the entire city of Denver. I will be backing Barbara O’Brien, the incumbent and former Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. O’Brien has led the charge for the district on improving early childhood education, which is key to the foundations of a strong education system.
The District 3 race is the district in which I live. I’ll be supporting Mike Johnson, the incumbent, who is the current treasurer of the board, and has done a masterful job in managing the district’s $1 billion budget over the past 4 years.
The District 4 race is the district in which I go to school, and where many of my friends and classmates live. I’ll be supporting the incumbent Rachele Espiritu, who has done a great job in her year and half on the board after her appointment to it, and is greatly reforming how the district handles student and teacher mental health. One of her opponents, Jennifer Bacon, also has similar beliefs, but seeing as Espiritu was chosen by the board (made up of 7 people I trust greatly), and Espiritu has stood stronger in her defense of charter schools, I have made this decision in good faith. I hold nothing against Bacon, I just feel better about having Espiritu on the board.
So there you have it. An LGP and endorsements double post. Questions are certainly welcome in the comments.