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Education advocates say DPS budget needs to address student inequities

A coalition of organizations in a news conference on Sunday shared a message to the Board of Education.

DENVER — A coalition of education advocacy organizations held a news conference on Sunday to share its message for student equity in the Denver Public Schools (DPS) budget for the next school year.

The group delivered a message to the DPS Board of Education on what they think the board should consider before making budget cuts: prioritizing students, mental health access, distance learning access and a better representation of student populations through teachers and staff hired at schools.

Coalition members also addressed the need for schools to help students navigate recent traumas related to racial injustice and COVID-19, as well as what history is taught in schools and how it is taught.

>> Watch the full news conference in the video below.

Many school districts are dealing with financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. DPS is facing a $65 million budget shortfall for the coming school year.

The coalition is pushing for a budget that prioritizes students of color, students with special needs and those who come from low-income households.

"A critical message the advocates want to deliver is that the adopted budget should not exacerbate long-standing inequities in the system, or use stop-gap measures that will ultimately hurt students in the long-term," the group said in a news release.

The organizations in the coalition are FaithBridge, Transform Education Now and Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism. Other participants are A Plus Colorado, Education Reform Now, and Stand for Children.

The economic impact of the coronavirus is affecting almost every school district in Colorado, with some systems losing millions of dollars for the next school year.

Earlier this month, DPS reached an agreement with the teacher's union to help address the district's budget concerns. DPS had asked the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) to revisit a deal made last year, after a three-day teachers' strike, that gave a pay raise to teachers.

RELATED: DPS, teacher’s union reach deal to help with $65M budget shortfall

In a letter that Superintendent Susana Cordova sent to the DCTA in mid-June, she detailed the $3.3 billion revenue shortfall that Colorado faces for the coming school financial year, leading to a 5.3% gap in DPS' budget.

In addition to working with DCTA on teacher pay, the district was also considering other options, including a hiring freeze, larger class sizes, limited sports and activities, or tapping into district reserves.

This article includes previous reporting by Bobbi Sheldon and Nelson Garcia for 9NEWS.

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