Real plans for a vibrant, safe, affordable Denver:
A Comprehensive Plan for Denver’s Youth
Our children are Denver’s most precious resource. Yet we know the challenges they are facing are persistent and profound. Young people are facing the most dramatic mental health crisis in a generation. We still see growing achievement gaps post COVID, and we see increasing incidents of youth violence and school based violence, and after the murder of Luis Garcia, families across Denver are worried about our kids safety in and out of schools. Denver cannot be a great city unless it is a great city for our young people, that means focusing on their physical safety, their mental health, their academic growth, and ensuring they have a school district and a school board who puts their interests first. Now we need a mayor with the commitment and vision to execute these plans.
Here is my plan. As with every part of my policy platform, we know it works and we know how to pay for it.
1. Expand mental health services. As Mayor, my goal is to work closely with teachers, administrators, and parents to make sure the city is supporting DPS while using my position to push for better outcomes. I would build a closer working partnership with DPS, including by funding efforts to expand afterschool and summer programming for low-income students and supporting the expansion of mental health services in school-based health clinics through a partnership with Denver Health. This would include increasing the number of counselors in our high schools so that every high school has adequate coverage to serve the needs of their students. To pay for 10 additional FTEs to serve at high schools across the city, we’d need to allocate an additional $1 million to institutions like Denver Health.
2. Close the achievement gap and help kids find their passion by connecting low income students to positive out-of-school opportunities. As mentioned in our equity policy, high-income families spend five times more on out-of-school activities and summer programs than low-income families.1 That spending exacerbates disparities in access to opportunity, and it also deprives children of enriching connections and experiences. We can close this gap through innovative programs that can help reduce risk-taking behavior in teens simultaneously.
- Provide after school and summer enrichment to kids from low-income households. We want young people to be able to access the programs that inspire them and prepare them for their future. That could be arts, athletics, music, science, math, robotics, or mental health support. Our program will help provide resources that families can access to support the after school programming that best fits their child’s needs and interests.2 In a current pilot program to provide enrichment activities to low-income households, families are given a broad list of possible providers to choose from. They will have the flexibility to identify the program of their choice, and the city will directly fund their participation in that program.3 As Mayor, I will expand this pilot program to reach more free and reduced lunch students in Denver, which will have the added benefit of helping parents get high-quality programming for their kids while they are at work. This also provides much needed funding to community-based nonprofits, arts and athletics, and tutoring programs that are often led by entrepreneurs of color but struggle to get access to larger public grant programs. Denver teachers and schools would be pre-approved as providers so any educators who wanted to offer after school programming could receive funding to support those students who need it the most.
- We know it works. Out-of-school programming has been found to help narrow the achievement gap, with benefits starting in early education and continuing through higher grade levels.4 And a groundbreaking program in Iceland found that the increased availability of out-of-school programs had positive impacts on teen substance use, with teen marijuana usage decreasing 10%, teen drinking decreasing 38%, and teen smoking decreasing 20%.5
- We know how to pay for it. The first launch of this program will focus on middle school students and will serve approximately 4,000 kids with $4 million in combined city and philanthropic funding.6 If the pilot is successful, we will work to expand this program to include high school and middle school students. That expansion would require us to partner with City Council and advocacy groups to secure $22 million of funding to serve every DPS child who receives free and reduced lunch over the course of my first term.7
3. Expand gun control laws to get guns out of students’ hands. I’ll do this in four primary ways:
- Enforce Red Flag Laws. As the Club Q incident shows, too often our police, prosecutors and local law enforcement do not have the resources, tools, and support they need to act swiftly in the face of evidence of a threat by pursuing Extreme Risk Protection Orders. As Mayor, I will put additional resources, tools, and urgency into this effort. I will ensure any Denver resident who perpetrates domestic violence, stalks, or poses a credible threat to our community no longer possesses a firearm – period.
- 10-Day Waiting Period. Waiting periods avoid impulsive purchases with deadly consequences. The evidence from researchers and policymakers across America who have studied these policies is clear – waiting periods save lives.8 Now that Colorado’s preemption law has been repealed, local communities can finally act. In my first year as Mayor, I will work with the city council to enact a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm.
- Age Limits. The minimum age to buy a gun in Denver is 18. This means that some of our high school seniors can legally purchase deadly weapons – despite their proximity to minors and despite the elevated risk of suicide at that age. Unsurprisingly, the evidence9 shows that raising the minimum age to purchase firearms reduces firearm offenses. As Mayor, I will push to raise the minimum age to purchase all firearms in Denver to 21.
- Invest in prevention, mental health, and youth services to build healthier, safer, and strong communities. Common sense gun safety regulations can help keep Denver families safe. Anytime a Denverite picks up a firearm with the intent to harm themselves or their neighbors, it represents a tragic failure to build the kind of community and city to which we all aspire. As Mayor, I’ll combine the above regulations and enforcement with new investments in mental and behavioral health. I’ll invest in our schools and communities to scale effective after-school programming, home-visiting services for youth at risk, and a range of prevention strategies proven to help keep people out of trouble and out of the justice system.
3. Support a functional school board. As Mayor, I would partner with the school board to take on key issues facing the city and DPS together, like mental health, after-school programming, and gun safety. I would also work alongside Denverites to make sure we have a functional school board that serves teachers and students. I would publicly advocate for the election of thoughtful, experienced, and pragmatic Denverites to the School Board who are committed to doing the essential job of providing high quality teaching and learning to students. The core goal of the school board ought to be focused around increasing students outcomes, not distracting the district in ideological or partisan division.
- See https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/pages/america-after-3pm-demand-grows-opportunity-shrinks.aspx
- Based on the current pilot, eligibility for the program is based on students’ participation in schools’ Free and Reduced Lunch programs due to their household income. FRL is currently the state standard measure for students’ socioeconomic status – should this standard measure change on the state level, that new measure would be used to determine eligibility instead. Currently, this program will serve middle school students, but aims to eventually scale up to support students of all grade levels.
- Recipients will be able to choose from a list of providers that include more traditionally academic services like access to one-on-one tutoring from teachers, but also broader enrichment services like mental health services and access to resources like the Denver Zoo.
- See https://www.afterschoolalliance.org/afterschoolSnack/New-research-shows-afterschool-helps-close-the-achievement_10-07-2013.cfm
- See https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/teens-drugs-iceland/513668/
- This is on pages 81-82 of the 2023 Denver budget.
- This is on page 21 of the 2023 Denver budget.
- See https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1619896114
- See https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/199194