Editor’s note: This article was written by Kwame Spearman, a candidate for an at-large (citywide) seat on the Denver Board of Education. Boardhawk has offered to publish a limited number of commentaries from school board candidates, including Spearman’s opponent, John Youngquist, through October.
First and foremost, I want to express my deepest pride in receiving the Denver Classroom Teachers Association endorsement. As the son of a teacher, I know the dedication and hard work it takes to guide and inspire our children.
Fundamentally, I was thrilled to get DCTA’s endorsement because I discovered in the process that we shared so many of my values and beliefs. This endorsement is not just a reflection of my vision for our schools but also an honor to my mother’s legacy in education.
While we can and will disagree on some policies (as I’ve learned some even in the reform community will amongst themselves!) – I will not be a candidate to label an entire education community in a certain way.
I aspire to be a candidate for all of Denver, regardless of these endorsements, so I want to succinctly explain some of my key beliefs so that everyone knows where I stand:
Support for High-Performing Public Schools: Every child deserves a top-notch education, irrespective of the governance of their school. Whether charter, innovation, or traditional public schools, if they serve our students well, they have my support. I will work tirelessly to ensure all types of schools are recognized and celebrated as part of the DPS family. I am not a supporter of private schools receiving public dollars as we are seeing in some places around the country and will oppose efforts such as that in Colorado. I support a rich, diverse tapestry of public schools.
Choice in Education: I firmly believe in school choice and strong schools in every neighborhood – as do most families in Denver. I reject those who say we have to choose one or the other. The only way to do this is to ensure that choice doesn’t inadvertently perpetuate divisions or accelerate segregation. Every child, no matter where they live or their family’s income, should have equal opportunities and equitable access. I am the only candidate calling for a new transportation mill levy that would provide this essential option for families and communities. To ensure strong neighborhoods AND great options must be our path.
Authorization Based on Outcomes: Our innovation and charter schools should be held to the same standard as all DPS schools. This is the power of our shared work together as a family of schools. When a charter or innovation succeeds in closing opportunity gaps we must learn from them and they should be lauded just as any other school. Yet when they fail to close these gaps or actually expand them, they should be treated with additional scrutiny to ensure that they are an equitable partner in our shared pursuit of education. As a board member, I will be very critical and skeptical of charters or innovation schools that exacerbate inequality while distorting enrollment patterns – a position that I have found enormous support from families on the campaign trail, including many reformers.
Teacher Bill of Rights: I am a strong supporter of organized labor and will ensure that our teachers get the support they deserve. We have major work to do in this city to ensure teachers and paraprofessionals are supported – mental health burnout, lack of flexibility in their roles, and their inability to live in the city they love are major problems. Therefore I am the only candidate to have called for a Teacher Bill of Rights – building a plan for a significant pay increase for teachers, accelerated housing for them, and beyond. I want this to be heard loud and clear: these commitments would apply to every teacher in DPS schools, regardless of governance type.
Charter-District Compact Revival: Years ago, we had a Charter-District Compact, which unfortunately sunsetted under previous administrations. I aim to restart this compact, fostering a collaborative learning environment between all schools. Competition should not lead to hostility but rather mutual growth and understanding. Our new era in Denver Public Schools should be based on collaboration and a commitment to all students.
I’m thrilled these beliefs have aligned with many educational organizations and civic leaders – who have subsequently endorsed my candidacy. Ultimately I aspire to be a leader for ALL Denver and hope that after this election and the turmoil of these past few years we can move forward together. We cannot succumb to the politics of division so I need all of you to understand: I believe my positions are with the vast majority of Denverites on the major education issues we face. While I stand with DCTA strongly, I also believe these positions will resonate with many families and community leaders across the board.
In closing, our core values should be clear and unwavering: support for great schools, dedication to our educators, and ensuring safe, conducive environments for learning. These aren’t exclusive to a union or reform agenda. These are our shared goals, a unity agenda. That’s what I aim to champion on the board.
Together, let’s build a brighter future for every Denver child.