Jeanne Kaplan served two terms as an elected board member in Denver. She has watched the board’s frenIed embrace of “reform” with dismay. open the link and read the full article, which appears on her blog. I am not putting the post into italics since she uses italics.

She writes:

Reap what you sow and the chickens come home to roost. The elephant in the room.  Aphorisms appropriate to describe what is happening in public education in Denver. 

After 20 years,  more than 5  superintendents, and 11 different school boards, the results of education reform in Denver have become clear, and they aren’t pretty. After opening 72 charters in the last 20 years, 22 of which have closed, the declining enrollments in neighborhood schools have forced the prospect of school closures.  Who knew opening 26 privately run elementary charter schools in competition with district-run schools would ultimately force the district to make some hard financial decisions?  And who knew that ignoring its own 2007 data showing stagnant population growth would lead to less demand for elementary school seats in the 2020s?  Apparently, not those with the power for the last 20 years.  And, as an ironic aside, many of the same people who were the decision-makers in the past and who were unable to make substantive change then, have now decided they will somehow make these previously unattainable changes from their outside “oversight” committee, EDUCATE Denver. In fact one of the co-chairs, Rosemary Rodriguez, was a DPS board member when on March 16, 2017, a Strengthening Neighborhoods Resolution passed, stating:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that a citywide committee be formed to review changing demographics and housing patterns in our city and the effect on our schools and to make recommendations on our policies around boundaries, choice, enrollment and academic programs in order to drive greater socio-economic integration in our schools.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in the face of the sharp decline in the number of school-aged children in gentrifying neighborhoods, the committee is also charged with how to think about school choice and school consolidation to ensure that our schools are able to offer high-quality, sustainable programs for our kids.

These former school board members and former and current civic leaders have formed a “shadow school board” to evaluate and oversee the current superintendent and school board.  Why?  It appears they don’t like what they are seeing being proposed by the current superintendent. What don’t they like?  It appears they have determined the current superintendent is not committed enough to their reform agenda.  You know – the one that has been in place when they were in power, the one that has produced the biggest gaps in the nation, more segregation, and more resource inequity.

As school closures have risen to the fore this week Chalkbeat disclosed these statistics:

“Over the past 20 years, Denver Public Schools has added a lot of schools. It has added students, too — but at a much slower rate.

  • The number of public schools in Denver grew 55% between the 2001-02 and 2021-22 school years, while the number of students grew just 12%.
  • Denver went from having 132 schools serving about 72,000 students in 2001-02 to 204 schools serving nearly 89,000 students in 2021-22.
  • The number of elementary schools in Denver grew 23% over the past 20 years, while the number of students grew just 4%.”

Through expensive marketing and often false narratives, charter schools have had free reign to prey on susceptible families resulting in DPS losing 7400 elementary school students who would have otherwise most likely attended a neighborhood school. Then add in:

  • a state law that prohibits a district from shutting down low enrollment charters, 
  • a district that has ignored demographic information predicting declining enrollment, 
  • a district that employs “attendance zones” and a secretive CHOICE system to often force place students into heavily marketed, often unwanted CHARTER SCHOOLS, and 
  • a competitive financial model called Student Based Budgeting (SBB – money follows the kid) to fund schools, depending on student needs, the goal of which is to close the achievement and resource gaps.