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At-Large Candidate Julie Bañuelos Q&A

Website:   www.banuelos4education.org

Biographical information

Julie Bañuelos has served 15 years in Denver classrooms as a teacher, a union leader and a community advocate.

 

When looking at the past four years, how would you describe DPS’ legacy?

Since I spent 2000-2016 in DPS classrooms as a teacher, union leader and community advocate, the last four years are extremely telling of its legacy. The push toward privatization that culminated in a portfolio management department within the district has simply depersonalized our students and teachers as commodities. The systems that were implemented (e.g. Leading Effective Academic Practices, School Performance Framework, School Quality Review) have been distorted by the district leadership and administration into protocols for closing schools and scapegoating teachers. Simply put, the district’s legacy is one defined as a dismantling of our public education system in Denver while spinning a narrative that all students deserve quality schools.

 

What should be DPS’ top four priorities in the next four years?

  1. Protect students – Remove police from our schools and replace them with fully-funded restorative justice programs.
  2. Defend families – End the wasteful, admin-heavy school “choice” system that wreaks havoc on our working family households.
  3. Support teachers – Defend the collective bargaining rights of all teachers.
  4. Watch spending – Push for a moratorium on charter school approvals in favor of existing schools that need resources, stability and freedom from fear of school closure.

 

Many families enjoy the ability to “choice” into a desired school. This benefit, however, comes at a price. Please describe some of the negative repercussions of the “choice” system and ways to mitigate those repercussions.

“Choice” suggests an equal system for all. But less than 50% of families actually receive their first choice, and 70% of DPS families are low income. And worse, choice has resulted in a system of manufactured segregation when schools of the most vulnerable are closed.

 

The real solution is to properly fund our school programs, so that a family’s organic choice is a good choice. I have a background in the financial services industry, and I will push for an audit to ensure that our schools have the resources they need to do their best by our DPS families.

 

A July 2017 report by the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education reiterated its call for a moratorium on new charters until there is accountability and transparency in their operations. What will you do in response to this, if elected?

One of my priorities, all along, has been a moratorium on new charters.  Charters maintain zero-tolerance systems with authoritative discipline practices and sometimes depend on a visible police presence. Such practices compound the school to prison pipeline that perpetuates injustices toward our communities of color. Charters must be held to the same standards as their counterparts when it relates to disciplinary practices – instead of weakened oversight for the sake of high test scores.

 

Our neighborhood schools deserve comprehensive and well-funded programs, and I commit to leveling the playing field. It’s time to put the brakes on new charter authorizations.

 

What are the pros and cons of allowing people who do not have a formal teacher education to teach Denver’s students? For example those trained by the Teach for America program or the Relay Graduate School of Education. 

Denver faces teacher shortages due to the assault on tenured and union teachers. The substitution of hiring underprepared, lower-cost personnel for our classroom is not the way to fix the problem. While the lower cost of hiring a TFA is appealing to principals, sacrificing experienced and well-trained educators weakens a student’s education.

Relay has not received the accreditation that is required for legitimate teacher and administrator licensure. These options are innately problematic in that they lack legitimacy and commitment to communities that need well-prepared teachers committed to students and their communities.

 

Who do you expect will be the three top funders to your campaign? Are there any organizations or individuals from which you will be declining contributions?

My top funders will be either anti-privatizers and/or Denver citizens that strongly believe in preserving public education. Donations from these individuals will be anywhere from $10-$250. I will not accept funding from networks such as Democrats from Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children, Children First and/or similar committees/organizations that use the 501(c)3 to cloak pro-privatizer billionaire contributions.

 

On a grade of A to F, rate Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s performance over the last four years.

Because Boasberg ignores the pleas of community to stop co-location and school closures, lack of good faith while negotiating with DCTA, among other things, my assessment would be a “D.”

 

What is your position on vouchers?   

NO to vouchers. Our taxpayers democratically and faithfully approve school funding to serve our public institutions, and vouchers take funding out of the school system.

 

What is your position on “choice?”  

Choice benefits a few and hurts the majority of students and their families and creates unnecessary competition for resources.

 

What is your position on enrollment zones?  

Enrollment zones characteristically are another form of gerrymandering.

 

What is your position on high-stakes testing?  

High-stakes testing benefits educational publishers and other corporate interests.  It offers a myopic view of our students’ abilities and disrupts the learning environment better left to our educators.

 

What do you bring to the board that is new?
I bring the experience and voice of a classroom teacher, community advocate and union leader. My background resembles that of 65 percent of our student demographics.


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