The recent resignation of Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova has sparked a wave of outrageous, farfetched and biased criticism of the Denver Public Schools’ Board of Directors. The linking of the hot-button issues of racism and sexism to Cordova’s decision to leave is clearly an effort to undermine support for the current board. There is no evidence that Cordova has been pushed out by the BOE. More than likely, the underlying reason for her departure is the chronic lack of financial support for public education here in Colorado and a failed “reform agenda” forced upon our public schools by the prior board majority.
Furthermore, a call by Mayor Michael Hancock and former Mayor Federico Pena to convene a committee of residents to select the new superintendent is unlawful. This school board was duly elected by the people. The board must stand steadfast, withstanding all attempts to usurp their authority to appoint a new superintendent.
Superintendent turnover is high here in Colorado, with three leaving this year (Denver County, Jefferson County, and Douglas County.) It is not racism or sexism that is causing them to leave.
Colorado ranks near the bottom nationally in funding our public schools, making it difficult to attract and retain teachers. COVID has made that challenge even greater as teachers retire early or just leave the profession due to stress and poor compensation.
Reformers have put an emphasis on standardized testing, which covers only reading and math, diverting over $30 million of scarce school funding to for-profit test-writing corporations but doing little to improve student learning. Science, social studies, art, and music are just as important to the development of the whole child.
Reformers have also opposed raises and better working conditions for teachers while siphoning funding from traditional public schools for the creation of additional charter schools. When a student leaves his traditional neighborhood school to enroll in a newly created charter school, the funding for that student goes with the student to the new charter school, resulting in a loss of funding to the neighborhood school. Contrary to claims that charter schools out-perform traditional schools, the data has shown that charter school performance is consistently equal to or lower than traditional school performance.
The voters have spoken through two election cycles. They have unequivocally rejected the failed “reform” agenda of the prior board majority in favor of a new direction. Instead of inciting discord in an effort to undermine support for the current board, it is vitally important that we all unite to focus on what is in the best interest of our children.
Michael Merrifield is a retired schoolteacher in Colorado Springs, a former member of the Colorado state House and state Senate and a board member of Advocates for Public Education Policy.