Mar 16, 2023 - Politics

Some Denver mayoral candidates call for more control over schools

Illustration of a pattern of beer school buses.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Some candidates vying for Denver mayor are pushing for a bigger say in public school decisions, our partners at Chalkbeat report.

Why it matters: It's one of the ways candidates are both trying to distinguish themselves in a sprawling sea of 17 hopefuls and resonate with voters, who remain undecided and largely unengaged.

  • A recent poll from 9News/Metropolitan State University of Denver showed 46% of respondents deemed education a top issue, following crime, homelessness and housing.

The big picture: Denver Public Schools — the state's largest public school system — is facing numerous challenges, from declining enrollment and school closures to budget shortfalls and a combative school board.

What they're saying: Mike Johnston, a former state senator and nonprofit leader who has worked on education reform, in a survey called the school board's behavior "more of a public embarrassment than a source of pride."

  • State Sen. Chris Hansen wants to create a mayoral appointee to serve as a non-voting member.
  • Trinidad Rodriguez, a financial advisor and son of a former school board member, wants to give the city's chief executive the authority to appoint members of the school board.

Zoom in: Some candidates are hoping to strike a more middle-of-the-road approach.

  • Former Denver chamber leader Kelly Brough is proposing to create a mayoral Cabinet member position that would work with the district — but says she would consider mayoral appointees on the board.
  • State Rep. Leslie Herod demurred when Axios Denver asked her via email if the mayor should have more control in local public schools, but said she’d use her position to put pressure on the board and "draw attention to failures in our school systems."

The other side: Some candidates say the mayor has no right to be involved in an independently elected school board's decisions.

Go deeper with our partners at Chalkbeat


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