October 15, 2021 | OPINION | By Tom Byron | Photo by Sierra Romero

Colorado College students have the chance to decide the outcome of a vital election. This year, the District 11 school board race is a stark choice between people who care about public education and people who want to use this election as the latest battleground in the national culture war over public health and racial justice. 

Though the race is nonpartisan, half the candidates in the race are pushing policies straight out of the Republican Party platform: ban masks in schools, end vaccine mandates, shut down discussions of racial equity, and defund public education.

If these candidates win, they will expose children to the deadliest pandemic in United States history just to score political points. They will ensure that this city’s students are taught a history that hides the impacts of race in America by teachers being paid minimal wages in schools that were built before most of our parents were even born.

As CC students, we know what it’s like to have our education shattered by quarantines and made mind-numbing by more than a year of remote learning. We’ve experienced the shock of learning for the first time the full picture of U.S. history and the harm inflicted on people of color for centuries up until the present day. 

We’ve felt the frustration of attending schools that don’t seem to care about what kind of education we get, only what test scores we can churn out.

We’re in the unique position of being young enough to remember what it’s actually like to be a student in the American education system and old enough to have a say in how it’s run. These problems aren’t distant concerns for us; they’re barely even in the past. Those students who come after us deserve something better than what we got.

There are four seats available on the school board, in addition to a major ballot initiative that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild local schools. You can vote for up to three candidates for the four-year school board seats, one candidate for the two-year school board seat, and “yes” or “no” on question 4B for the education bond.

Chris Wallis, Julie Ott, and Jen Williamson are my choices for the four-year school board seats. Shawn Gullixson is my pick for the two-year school board seat. Voting “yes” on question 4B will ensure that District 11 can renovate and improve its schools without having to raise taxes.

I’ve met and worked with every candidate on this list over the past few months as a volunteer organizer for Chris Wallis’s campaign. I’ve knocked on doors with them, gone to back-to-school nights alongside them, and had the privilege to get to know them as people. 

Wallis, Ott, and Gullixson are already on the school board, and have a strong record of voting for safe, strong, and inclusive public education. Williamson is a passionate community activist with deep ties to District 11 and Colorado Springs, and she’s worked for years to give parents and students a greater voice in how their schools are run. 

All four have been endorsed by the teachers of District 11, and many of them have children in District 11 schools. Most importantly, at least to me, they’re all good people. They care about students, they care about teachers, and they want to make this school district better for everyone in it. 

Local elections are won by hundreds of votes, not thousands. The difference between winning and losing can be as few as a couple dozen people who took the time to fill out a ballot, and here in Colorado, it’s easier than ever. 

If you’re registered to vote, you’ve already been sent a ballot for this election, and it might be sitting behind the mailroom desk right now. By filling it out and sending it back, you can help give generations of children a safe, equitable, high-quality public education. The kids of Colorado Springs need us, and I know we won’t let them down. 

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