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DFER-CO Statement on Today’s U.S. Senate Hearing on Reforming ESEA
January 21, 2015

Democrats for Education Reform Colorado applauds U.S. Sen Michael Bennet of Colorado and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg for their leadership in the national effort to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide better schools and better outcomes for all students. 

In today’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing, titled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability,” Sen. Bennet spoke on the need to rewrite the law, focusing on the importance of prioritizing kids, changing outcomes, and addressing poverty:

 “For the first time in the country’s history, a majority of our public school children are poor enough that they qualify for free and reduced lunch. That is a shameful situation that we find ourselves in. When No Child Left Behind was passed we couldn’t say that. The majority of our children weren’t that poor. They are today.

“In my view that’s why this discussion is so important - because the attempt of No Child Left Behind was to create a system of accountability that disaggregated data and showed us how kids were performing by income, and also their ethnicity, and it demonstrated the huge achievement gap that exists in this county.

“All of us have different policy issues we focus on, but in my mind if you want to cure this problem of poverty in our country, the way to do that is by making sure that people can read when they’re in the first grade. That’s the most important thing we can do.”

DPS Superintendent Boasberg further demonstrated Colorado’s leadership and commitment to progressive education when he was invited to testify, commenting, “One key to our progress is our refusal to be imprisoned by the ideologically polarizing debates and false conflicts that we often see around us. We focus on what works for kids.”

The remarks by Sen. Bennet and Superintendent Boasberg are powerful reminders of the complicated challenges facing America’s children, and the urgency with which we must address them.

DFER-CO is confident that Colorado, with the help of visionary leaders such as Bennet and Boasberg, will continue to be a strong voice in the developing national conversation about reforming and updating ESEA. 

Democrats For Education Reform Applauds Lt. Gov. Garcia
December 11, 2014



DFER friends,

Those of us on the front lines of education reform believe strongly in our cause. We fight the good fight every day knowing it’s not going to be easy, that there are entrenched special interests which place the politics of adults over the promise of a quality education for every child in Colorado, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic background.

There are times when we wonder if our voice is heard, if our values are shared, if elected officials, community leaders, school boards and other key parties truly embrace what we see as a moral imperative.

Then comes Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who spoke so eloquently on the issue at a recent event that we at DFER felt compelled to pass along our deepest appreciation and echo his views on meaningful progressive education reform.

Simply put, the words of Lt. Gov. Garcia, spoken during the 74th Colorado Association of School Boards Convention, strengthen our resolve, energize our efforts and invigorate our mission.

“We need to stay the course,” said Mr. Garcia. “Above all, we need to be consistent and intentional in our strategy… And while there will be tough years when new systems are implemented, we need to do our best to adapt and stick to the plan. Otherwise, we risk creating disastrous ripples of inconsistency and inequality throughout our K-12 system.”

The implementation of reform does not come easily, and flexibility and course correction are sometimes needed to reach promised results. Noting this, Garcia went on to say, “There can and must be a rich debate over how we measure student progress, but we can’t stray from the path of high standards, quality assessments and effective educators.”

Detailing the work of the Colorado Standards and Assessments Task Force, or 1202 Commission, which has been convened to address issues surrounding the volume of assessments, Mr. Garcia indicated he is open to streamlining. “But this can’t come at the expense of giving up on fairness and consistency across every Colorado community,” Garcia stated emphatically.

Recognizing that “Colorado has a math problem,” Garcia urged the crowd to begin local conversations and build public support for change. DFER wholeheartedly agrees that, “We need sober recognition of financial realities we face and we need an understanding of what our parents and job creators want from our schools, and a vision of an economy that includes Colorado kids in its future.”

Lt. Gov. Garcia has clearly taken the time and effort to understand the nuances of a complex issue, one whose ultimate outcome will be critical to the future of our state.

DFER would like to take this opportunity to send our heartfelt thanks to Lt. Gov. Garcia, and others in leadership positions, who have shown the strength and foresight to stand firmly on the leading edge of what is best for our children.


Jen Walmer

Colorado State Director

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
September 25, 2014

By Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

The recent actions of the new conservative majority of the Jefferson County Schools Board of Education remind us of a couple important points:

1. Elections can have drastic and immediate consequences on our daily lives.

2. Far too often in today's ever-changing education landscape, extreme right ideologues are wrapping themselves in the cloak of legitimate, reasonable education reform.

Last week, the Jefferson County school board took under consideration a proposal from board member and known Tea Party activist Julie Williams that would limit what Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum could cover.

Here is the proposal:

"Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

This proposal, and similar ones being discussed by conservatives on the Colorado Board of Education, is an attack on the very best 21st century scholarship that teaches students to weigh our nation's history with a thoughtful mind and discerning eye.

The current A.P. History curricula highlight the events that made our country "exceptional," to borrow a favorite conservative catchphrase. At the same time, they do not avoid the points in our history that, at the very least, are worthy of further discussion.

Could it be that there are actually events and decisions in our young country's history that we dare not repeat?

The so-called reform these extremists seek is neither legitimate nor reasonable. It's not reform at all. It's a giant leap backward and harkens to our nation's darkest hours; times of unfair judgment, unreasoned paranoia, and blatant xenophobia.

Or did they not learn about those times in social studies class?

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here.

Denver Plan 2020 Fights for Great Schools in Every Neighborhood
August 21, 2014

By Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

DFER-endorsed DPS School Board Members Happy Haynes, Anne Rowe, Barbara O'Brien, Landri Taylor, Mike Johnson and Rosemary Rodriquez unveiled the new Denver Plan 2020 this week. Based on a vision called “Every Child Succeeds,” their comprehensive plan to move the needle for Denver's kids shows that we have elected leaders willing to challenge the status quo. We commend their leadership and their call to action to ensure the district realizes its goals by 2020.

The Denver Plan has at its core the goal of Great Schools In Every Neighborhood. A cornerstone of what we believe at Democrats for Education Reform is that all children deserve access to a high-quality public education, regardless of race, gender, geography or socioeconomic status. We support leaders in our party who have the courage to challenge a failing status quo and who believe that the severity of our nation's educational crisis demands that we tackle this problem using every possible tool at our disposal. We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership.

DFER-CO commends the leaders of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education for taking this step to ensure Denver’s kids have access to the education they deserve. As DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg stated, "Our community will be only as strong as the people who are part of it -- and the future civic leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals and educators are in our schools today. We will only reach our potential as a city -- we will only become a great community -- if we succeed in creating a great school in every community."

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here.

Court Dismisses CEA Challenge to Educator Effectiveness Law
June 9, 2014

Jen Walmer | 720.224.1909 | jwalmer@dfer.org


Court Dismisses CEA Challenge to Educator Effectiveness Law
Educators to Retain the ‘Power to Decide’

DENVER, Colo. June 6, 2014 - In a victory for Colorado’s students, Denver District Court Judge Michael Martinez dismissed a lawsuit today that challenged education reform legislation and the right of educators to decide who teaches in their schools. “This was always about giving educators the right to decide who gets the privilege of teaching next to them,” said Colo. Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), co- sponsor of SB 191. “I look forward to working with educators across the state to fully implement this important legislation.”

Before 2010, teacher contracts often required school districts to forcibly place tenured teachers in schools if the teachers could not be hired elsewhere. In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 191, which required the “mutual consent” of a principal and a potential candidate before the candidate could be hired. “I am thrilled with the decision made this afternoon by Judge Martinez—this is the right decision for our kids, for our teachers and leaders, and for our state,” said Hon. Christine Scanlan, co-sponsor of SB 191.

Filed by the Colorado Education Association, Masters v. Denver Public Schools challenged SB 191, claiming that it was a constitutional violation to give teachers and principals the power to decide who can teach in their classrooms. Judge Martinez disagreed and dismissed the entire case.

Denver 5th grade literacy teacher Lauren Fine said, "This is also a win for the teaching profession—good teachers were behind this legislation and we are happy it will be upheld.”

A bipartisan coalition of business and education leaders, as well as three former Colorado governors came out strongly in opposition to the lawsuit. “It’s great to see the courts recognize the right of student learning over adult interests,” said Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Denver, an organization coalition member.

Please see attached court ruling.


About the Great Teachers and Leaders Law Coalition:

Formed with original SB 191 Coalition members and others, it is comprised of civic, business and philanthropic organizations including A+ Denver, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Competitive Council, Colorado Concern, Colorado Succeeds, Democrats for Education Reform, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Donnell-Kay Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, Piton Foundation, and Stand for Children Colorado.

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