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.

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

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”