DENVER — Future school board members in Denver Public Schools will get paid up to $750 a month, after current members of the board voted 5-2 in favor of board compensation Thursday night.
The resolution allows board members to receive $150 per day, up to five days per month, for days when official board duties are formed.
Only newly-elected board members will benefit from this plan, including several new members elected this November (who will be sworn into office later this month). The current board members who were not up for re-election this month will not benefit from the compensation unless they are re-elected when their term ends.
Supporters of the resolution said compensation is necessary if DPS wants future board members to reflect the diverse community. They said not everyone has the flexibility of schedule or finances to put in the long hours required, without pay.
“We should no longer have a roadblock for people when they want to serve on this board,” said one supporting board member, Tay Anderson.
Those who opposed the idea, like board member Barbara O’Brien, pointed to the many other important projects that still need to be funded with DPS’s limited resources.
“We have unmet needs in student mental health. We’ve been hearing from students for two years that that is their number one concern. We have unmet needs in special education. We all have emails a couple months ago from parents telling us that there’s a delay in getting soap dispensers refilled,” she said, listing some examples of other priorities.
Board member Angela Cobian, who most recently served as board treasurer, was also opposed. She said she “cannot in good conscience vote to increase the structural debt of the district.”
“We are also telling school leaders, teachers, students, and community members in areas of declining enrollment because of gentrification and declining birth rates that those schools have to do more with less," Cobain said.
"We cannot fill bus driver slots, and that’s creating all sorts of mayhem across district and exacerbating inequities among students in schools' populations," she said. "We can’t retain guest teachers desperately needed in our schools."
“Not to mention [the next board] has two labor contracts that they’re going to have to negotiate with some of our most valued employees that are burned out," she said. "When they come and ask us for pay increases, we're going to have less to pay them with. And this board is going to have to contend with that.”
“Yes, there are other things to attend to,” Bradley Laurvick, another supporting board member, said.
“It is my hope that we're building towards the accessibility of a board in the future, each and every board, that can address all of those needs by representing even more of our community. That is my hope – that all of those needs – things that make the list that sometimes get to the edges – that we will be able to, because of this, bring in board directors who can look at those things with eyes that haven’t always been able to be here," he said.
A new Colorado law made the compensation vote possible. Passed in 2021, it allows elected school board members to receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Education stories from 9NEWS