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Mayoral candidates on education priorities

Should the next mayor of Denver hold the city school district accountable for ensuring every student receives a quality education?

Three candidates seen as front-runners – Michael Hancock, James Mejia and Chris Romer – strongly agree that yes, that is the responsibility of the mayor and his or her staff. But another leading candidate, Doug Linkhart, strongly disagrees.

That’s one of 28 questions on a recent survey of mayoral candidates by education advocacy groups Ed Reform Now, Colorado Succeeds, Get Smart Schools, Colorado League of Charter Schools, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform.

Candidates also were asked to prioritize a series of education issues.

Of the six candidates surveyed, four completed the questionnaires, Carol Boigon answered only three questions and Theresa Spahn declined to participate.

The six lead a field of 18 possible contenders in raising money, name recognition or ballot approval – five of the six have submitted petitions deemed sufficient for placement on the May 3 ballot.

“I do not think this is the right format to address these critical and substantive issues,” Boigon wrote in her comments.

Survey responses on key issues

In one part of the survey, candidates were asked to respond to statements on a scale of 1, strongly disagree, up to 5, strongly agree. Here are their responses on several key issues:

1. Denver Public Schools needs radical reform.

Boigon, Hancock and Romer agree, while Mejia strongly agrees and Linkhart strongly disagrees.

2. DPS is moving in the right direction.

Romer strongly agrees, Mejia and Hancock agree and Linkhart disagrees.

3. The mayor and city should support struggling neighborhood schools over charters.

Hancock, Mejia and Romer – Neutral. Linkhart – Agrees.

4. Teachers’ employment, evaluations and pay should be based primarily upon student results, including growth and preparation for college and work.

Hancock, Mejia and Romer – Agree. Linkhart – Disagrees.

5. Teacher performance ratings as measured by growth and impact on student learning should be available to the public.

Mejia strongly agrees, Romer agrees and both Hancock and Linkhart disagree.

6. Chronically low-performing schools should be restarted or phased out.

Linkhart disagrees while Romer, Mejia and Hancock agree.

7. If DPS is moving in the wrong direction, the mayor should work towards shared governance or control of the city schools.

Hancock and Romer agree, Linkhart and Mejia strongly disagree.

Rating priorities in public education

In another part of the survey, candidates were given 11 statements and asked to rate them in order of importance. Here are the top five picks for the four responding candidates:

Michael Hancock:

1. Increase accountability for low-performing schools

2. Increase funding

3. Expand number of high-performing district and charter schools

4. Maintain funding

5. Reward and hold educators responsible for student results

♦ ♦ ♦

Doug Linkhart:

1. Maintain funding

2. Increase funding

3. Decrease class size

4. Change school finance formula and law

5. Expand number of new high-performing district and charter schools

♦ ♦ ♦

James Mejia:

1. Reward and hold educators responsible for student results

2. Increase accountability for low-performing schools

3. Expand number of new high-performing district and charter schools

4. Increase funding

5. Change school finance formula and law

♦ ♦ ♦

Chris Romer:

1. Reward and hold educators responsible for student results

2. Maintain funding

3. Increase accountability for low-performing schools

4. Expand number of new high-performing district and charter schools

5. Reduce class size

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