Denver voters separated by distance, Amendment 66

Voters in opposite corners of Denver aren’t just separated by distance, but also in their support of a proposed tax increase on today’s ballot.

Residents of southwest Denver, who spoke to EdNews after dropping off their ballot at Harvey Park Recreation Center, generally opposed Amendment 66, while their northeastern neighbors at the Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center rallied behind the nearly billion dollar tax increase.

Joe Meredith dropped of his ballot Tuesday at a Denver polling center in northeast Denver. Photo by Nic Garcia
Joe Meredith dropped of his ballot Tuesday at a Denver polling center in northeast Denver. Photo by Nic Garcia

If approved, Amendment 66 would change the state’s flat income tax rate and finance a law that was passed by Colorado’s legislature earlier this year and that restructures current funding and would provide full day kindergarten for all students among other changes.

Supporters of the amendment and changes to the education system hailed the combination as a game-changer and believe Colorado would further its stance in education reform if they were enacted. Opponents argue the tax increase is unnecessary and would be harmful to small businesses.

Al Turner, a resident of Bear Valley, agrees with the latter.

“There’s so much mismanagement of the money in government,” he said. “The government hasn’t done enough creative spending.”

Terry Roberts echoed Tuner’s sentiment.

“I don’t feel like we need to be taxed anymore,” he said. “There are ways to fund education without increasing taxes.”

While Turner and Roberts were quick to dismiss the latest attempt to fund and reform Colorado’s education system, for Donnie Hooter, the decision to oppose the amendment was complex and took hours of research and re-reading his voter guide several times.

“Education needs to be reformed, but I’m not sure this is the best way,” he said. “I’m afraid the government will get more money. This reminds me a lot of the bank bailouts.”

There was at least one supporter of Amendment 66 at Harvey Park Tuesday morning: Kirsten Kittrell.

Election volunteer Edward Wingfield accepts a ballot at a polling center in southwest Denver. Photo by Nic Garcia
Election volunteer Edward Wingfield accepts a ballot at a polling center in southwest Denver. Photo by Nic Garcia

“Education is so important,” she said. “And so much money has taken from the schools. We need to be planning for our future. We need to get our act together.”

About 15 miles northeast, Tanya Russell was one of the many voters who agree with Kittrell.

“I don’t know the exact numbers, but Colorado does a horrible job funding education,” she said after voting and a workout at the rec center. “I don’t mind paying more in taxes if it’s going to educate my kids.”

The promise of early childhood education was enough to swing Princess Mac.

“My children are in kindergarten,” she said. “I know the importance of a full day in kindergarten.”

For Anne Koshio, who has worked in public education, it was the comprehensive restructuring of school funding, putting an emphasis on low income schools, that made her vote yes.

“I firmly believe in distributing money to neighborhood schools who don’t have as high of property values,” she said. “Colorado is one of the worst states in funding education. Really, I’d vote for anything to give schools more money.”

The same can’t be said for Harry Jackson.

“I’m retired. I got taxed to death when I was working,” he said. “And I’m still paying,”

There is one thing voters in both neighborhoods agree on: they don’t know much about the candidates vying for one of four seats on the city’s school board.

In some instances, like Jackson, voters simply left the decision up to their gut.

Turner, in southwest Denver, said a lack of information prompted him to vote for Rosemary Rodriguez and Barbara O’Brien.

“I didn’t know much about their opponents,” he said. “I don’t expect school board candidates to campaign like governors, but I’d like to hear more about them.”

Few voters spoke with passion while discussing their choice of school board candidates.

Joe Meredith, of Park Hill, said, he didn’t like incumbent Landri Taylor’s stance on charter schools, so he voted for Roger Kilgore.

“I felt like a vote for Taylor was a vote against failing schools,” he said.

But for 95-year-old Charles Burrell, Taylor is just the man to find better teachers for DPS.

“I like his honesty and straight-forwardness,” he said.

Speaking of honesty, some voters couldn’t even remember the name of the candidate they checked on their ballot. One northeast Denver voter, discussing his rationale, confused the gender his preferred opponent’s challenger.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede