Educator Rights and Innovation Are Not Mutually Exclusive

By: Rob Gould, special education teacher and President of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Dr. Joyce Brooks and Marilyn Winokur, DPS Grandparents & Co-Chairs of Coloradans for the Common Good

There is nothing more important to Denver educators than their students. Students are why they get up in the morning. Students are the reason they stick around, even when the deck is seemingly stacked against them. 

Recently, however, certain politicians and corporate backed interest groups have crafted a legislative loophole that would erode educators’ contractual rights. These groups will tell you that legislation like this must exist in order for schools to continue to be innovative. We want to make clear, however, that innovating to meet students’ needs and a teacher’s statutory and contractual rights  are not mutually exclusive. We, both educators and community leaders, believe that teachers’ rights are vital to innovation and to student success.

You see, we support innovation schools in the manner in which they were intended, as places of innovative teaching and learning. The same is true of Denver Public Schools. We know that not all students learn the same way and not all solutions fit every student. This is especially true for students of color, students with special needs, and for families who experience socioeconomic stress. 

Educators have worked hand-in-hand with the DPS Board and administration, as well as with the local community, to address challenges that face our district. That’s why we’re concerned that the State Legislature is crafting legislation right now to make specific issues facing DPS a matter of statewide, rather than local, concern. It’s baffling why the Legislature would ignore the will of the people…the voters who elected the current DPS School Board…to pass a state law that only impacts a local issue and decreases local control of schools.  

We now have district leadership in place and a School Board that recognizes the unique role of innovation schools in Denver. The Superintendent and recently elected School Board understand and have witnessed past inequitable district practices and are currently working with educators to create solutions. At the same time, they are working to maintain the spirit of our many innovation schools and zones. State meddling in DPS business will only make these complex issues more difficult to untangle.

Again, educators rights and innovation are not mutually exclusive. DPS should have the latitude to address concerns at the district level without state interference. DPS, DCTA, and local community stakeholders are fully capable of identifying and addressing issues unique to our district.  We are also capable of and committed to developing and implementing solutions that are in the best interest of our students and our community.