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At-Large Candidate Robert Speth Q&A

Website: www.spethforstudents.org

Biographical information

Robert Speth holds a civil engineering degree along with a materials science program Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has worked for various technology companies over the years. He and his wife Kristen are DPS parents with two children in neighborhood schools.

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

On average, no progress on critical success indicators. Still only 39 percent of students reading proficient or advanced, graduation rates in the bottom 10 percent of major metros (behind Detroit and Baltimore) and the achievement gap is still massive, placing us in the bottom 10 percent of major metros. We have an out of state Super PAC-supported school board in place, focused on implementing the privatization wishes of corporations, not the communities of Denver. We have made no headway on teacher turnover rates, which are still the highest in Metro Denver at 22 percent. We Can Do Better.

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

  1. Listen to, AND ACT ON, the wishes of Denver’s communities. Citizens are tired of attending community meetings, voicing their heartfelt concerns and wishes only to have our superintendent and board vote against them.
  2. Start helping schools and stop closing them.
  3. Get more money in the classrooms. Any student, teacher or parent will tell you, we need to get more resources into the classrooms.
  4. Rein in the rate of privatization. The board approved 14 more privatized schools this year alone.

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. 

In most cases, “ability to choice,” is entangled with having the means available to choice. In the end, due to a myriad of issues, lack of transportation options being one, choice is, on average, being leveraged more by people of means. While spending on transportation could be increased, most communities indicate a strong desire for investment in their neighborhood schools so their children can be learning and spending time with friends and family vs. sitting on buses.

A July 2017 report by the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education re-iterated 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? 

I find this extremely telling. In Denver, many children of color are now being educated by charters. The fact that the NAACP is concerned enough by the results of this wave of privatization to call for a moratorium pretty much says it all. We are 12 years into a program of increasingly outsourcing public education to private operators and yet, we have only 39% of our children performing at proficient or advanced levels of reading, effectively the same rates as 2005. The results just simply are not there. I agree with the NAACP, we need increased accountability and transparency.

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. 

Teaching is a profession. I truly believe this. Having someone teaching my child, or anyone else’s for that matter, who is not a professionally educated teacher is disconcerting. DPS has become all too reliant on these programs in an attempt to solve budgeting problems. DPS continues to have the highest overhead of any metro Denver district. We need to redirect those dollars into the classrooms, increasing support for our students and teachers. One pro of Teach for America is the fact that some TFA teachers continue on to obtain their teaching degree and make teaching their profession.

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? 

It looks like my biggest supporters will be myself and two longtime friends, Craig Kaley and David Grasch. Funds from Democrats for Education Reform, Students for Education Reform, and other Super PAC-driven organizations pumping out-of-state cash into our local elections will not be accepted. This topic is particularly offensive to me as a citizen looking at the impact all this money is having on our local elections.

Note to voters: Pay attention to who is funding all the mailers arriving at your home. It is highly likely many of them will be coming from Super PACs funded with out-of-state cash.

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

What is your position on vouchers? Against.

What is your position on “choice?”

Supportive, but strongly in favor of supporting and enhancing strong neighborhood schools.

What is your position on enrollment zones?

With strong neighborhood schools the need for enrollment zones fades, but if you are using them, place a boundary guaranteeing entry for children living next to their neighborhood school.

What is your position on high-stakes testing?

This needs to be dramatically curtailed and I cite the fact that my son was taking tests for 11 days over the course of three weeks this past year.

 

What do you bring to the board that is new?

I’m a DPS parent, an engineer, and most importantly, I’m not funded or supported by the group Democrats for Education Reform or other Super-PAC driven organizations. Additionally, I’m actually supported by the Denver teachers.


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