Denver Students Take the Lead as Teachers Strike
Working-class students of color are mobilizing to support their striking teachers and against privatizing district leaders.
On the eve of the Denver teachers’ strike, which began this Monday, Superintendent Susana Cordova claimed that equity was the primary reason she refused to meet the unions’ demands for higher across-the-board pay increases. Like in so many cities across the country, Denver’s billionaire-backed district leaders continue to insist that privatization and “merit pay” are the only viable educational remedies for low-income students of color.
Over the past few weeks, Denver’s students have surged into action to challenge this narrative. Jhoni Palmer, a junior at East High, is one of a small group of high schoolers who have catalyzed thousands of their peers to participate in sit-ins, walkouts, and, most recently, a pro-strike dance party.
Palmer first decided to start organizing after her favorite teacher announced that he was moving away from Denver because he could no longer afford to provide for his family. “It broke my heart,” she explains. “I know what it’s like to struggle to survive—I come from a background where we don’t have a lot of money. So it’s insane to me that my teachers, who spend so many hours supporting us, can’t make ends meet.” As for Cordova’s corporate anti-racism, Palmer replied: “I don’t understand how not paying Denver teachers is helping us students of color. What we really need is more funding and a better curriculum.”