DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s school board race could have far-reaching ramifications. For the first time, anti-reformers could control the board. They need to pick-up just two seats.
If they win, it will mean sweeping changes at DPS, a district that often influences education policy across the state. A mom and former teacher, Ariel Taylor Smith, said the election is a choice between the future and the past.
“We have a choice to move forward and continue to make progress or there are some people who are unfortunately calling for us to move back to a system that we know never worked,” said Smith.
Union-backed candidates are promising to put a moratorium on all new charter and innovation schools. They make up more than half of Denver’s public schools. Teacher, Ally Nutter, said the district is closing schools that are struggling to open new charter schools.
“It’s not an equitable system at all. When we have a system of choice, it creates winners and losers within our system. The only students who can choose the school they want to go to and make it across town are students with parents who have the time and resources to get them across town every day,” said Nutter.
But statistics show Denver charter schools have more low-income students and students of color than district-run schools. They also have control over their curriculum.
“They’re able to adapt. DCIS Ford was able to buy a completely different reading program because of their innovation status. They saw their learners needed something different and they adapted. MLK Early College was able to hire restorative justice coordinators because of their innovation status. Those school level freedoms make us able to be more adaptive and improve our schools more rapidly,” said Nutter.
The board race will also determine whether DPS keeps its teacher evaluations, school ratings system and superintendent. Union-backed candidates want changes to all three. They’ve also vowed to put more money toward the classroom instead of administration.
Right now, about 66% of money goes to schools, which have a lot of autonomy over how to spend it, and 4.6% goes to central administration.
As an indication of the high stakes, reform candidates have accused the union of funding a racist flyer and teachers like Nutter are threatening to leave if reform candidates win.
“I’ve already decided if we don’t flip the board, I can’t feel good continuing to work for an education system that I don’t feel serves students,” said Nutter.
Well over a million dollars has been spent on the race.