DENVER (KDVR) — An at-large candidate for the Denver Public Schools board is making a big proposal.
“It’s absolutely insane that teachers who work for Denver Public Schools can no longer afford to live in Denver,” Board of Education candidate Kwame Spearman said about teacher retention and housing within the city.
Spearman, who also ran for Denver mayor this year, feels the district will continue to struggle to recruit and retain teachers into Denver Public Schools — especially those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color — without a housing solution that’s affordable.
Of the 8,294 teachers the state needed to hire last school year, 9% of those positions remain unfilled at the start of this school year, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
“The district is going to have to evolve its thinking and its ways to support teachers, and one of those is to build more housing that is specifically for teachers, that is affordable, that can allow them to literally work and live in the same community,” Spearman said.
Housing for teachers? How would it be done?
But how would this be done? First, lease the land through the city.
“We could lease that land out for a penny, a dollar, like the city did with the McGregor Square development downtown. And we could lease that land to developers, both not-for-profit and for-profit developers, to build housing. And that housing, especially that not-for-profit housing, could be deeded specifically to educators,” Spearman said. “So it’s actually an incredibly simple process. We have the land. DPS could still own the land, they lease it out, we have a not-for-profit developer build it with money coming in from the private sectors and private individuals, and we allow teachers to live there.”
It’s happened before, and the folks behind it were with Mercy Housing, a nationwide nonprofit headquartered in Denver.
“In Santa Clara, California, they partnered with Meta to develop educator housing for that community. Meta gave them a $25 million grant. They put that directly into housing and deeded it for teachers,” Spearman said.
He feels this same approach would work well for Denver Public Schools.
In May, the school board’s At-Large Vice President Auon’tai Anderson announced he would not seek re-election in order to run for Colorado House District 8.
Those opposing Spearman as school board candidates are Paul Ballenger, Brittni Johnson and John Youngquist.