Mike DeGuire: Billionaires and their investors are impacting education policies in Colorado and especially in Denver Public Schools
Mike DeGuire is a public education advocate in Colorado who questions the billionaire “investment” in Colorado schools.
In October, 2022, the Denver area Rocky Mountain Prep chain of four charter schools with 1800 students received an unexpected gift of $4.5 million from billionaire MacKenzie Scott. Then, in December, 2022, the KIPP Denver, Colorado charter school chain with six schools and 2600 students received $6 million from the same billionaire. These gifts equal about $2300 per student for the KIPP chain, and $2500 per student for the Rocky Mountain Prep chain. That amount of money is about ¼ of the total per student allocation for many schools in Denver. That is a lot of money!
Yet at the same time, neighborhood schools were facing closure.
This paradox of billionaires funding charter schools while neighborhood schools are struggling to provide for their students struck me as both unfair and questionable, especially when so many traditional schools may not have the necessary resources for the arts, reading and math intervention support, and other essential basic programs.
The situation also raised a number of questions for me. Why are some charter schools in DPS getting extra money while other traditional schools are hurting so badly? How can this be approved by board policy when taxpayers are already paying for some of the charter school costs? Why does the current student-based budgeting system continue to be used by the district when it doesn’t fully fund the programs that the Board has stated should be in place for every student?
And so DeGuire took to doing some research about privatization in Colorado.
In the course of this research, I discovered that the money coming from billionaires to certain DPS schools and organizations is not anything new. This privatization movement has been strategically designed in the past several decades by billionaires and their fellow investors for specific purposes: to lower their own tax burden, and ideologically to dismantle public education.