Guest Post: To improve Denver schools, listen to students, parents, and teachers

South high school denver DPS public schools strike
Striking teachers outside South High School on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. More than half of DPS' teaching and support staff workforce did not show up for work in protest of the district's pay structure. (Photo by Evan Semón for The Colorado Independent)

Striking Denver teachers are fighting for a contract that will allow us to afford living in Denver and continue teaching the students we love. Our current fight is also part of a larger movement for democratically controlled public schools, free from corporate interests. It’s time to come clean about a decade of failed policy in Denver Public Schools and take on the interest groups behind this failed experiment.

We were dismayed to hear that the Denver Post, along with some of the city’s political elite, have chosen to oppose teachers’ right to strike. Again and again, these groups have chosen to stand against the best interests of Denver students. Again and again, the corporate-backed reform policies championed by Denver elites have failed our students. The young people we work with every day are the future of this city, and we won’t stand by while our leaders sell them out.

Corporate-backed policies, like merit pay, high-stakes testing, and school choice, have chipped away at our schools for too long. Ten years into the school reform experiment, Denver’s achievement gap has only grown, further disadvantaging poor and working class students of color. The reforms have done nothing to expand opportunities for black and brown students. They have done nothing to make teaching a sustainable career in our city.

Education reformers claim to care deeply about low-income and minority students. But their actions speak louder than their words. Policies backed by the Denver Post, powerful voices like Federico Peña, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce have led to the closing of 48 neighborhood schools with rich histories and generations of graduates. These schools have been replaced by charters and co-located schools. The fact is, closure of neighborhood schools has not only failed to improve student outcomes, it has denied a generation of young people stable, comprehensive schools. It has also cost taxpayers untold millions as a result of ballooning administrative overhead.  

Denver doesn’t need to look far to find strategies that actually work. Decades of data on school integration and recent findings on community schools have shown their powerful ability to improve outcomes for students of all backgrounds. Parents know their kids, teachers know their students, and research shows results — let’s use this expertise to improve student achievement.

Denver teachers are ready to strike for the schools that our students deserve. The whole city is watching, and now is the chance to stand on the right side of history. We urge the I, community leaders, and all political parties to work with us–teachers, parents, and students—to ensure that all Denver students have access to a world-class education.

The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact or visit our submission page