Creating Opportunities for All of Denver’s Children

Michael grew up poor in a big family in northeast Denver. They didn’t have much, but they never gave up and they always had support from their neighborhood schools, city recreation programs, and nearby nonprofits. Twenty-five years after graduating from Manual High School, Michael believes the entire community – our city, schools, parents and businesses – must ensure all children are school-ready, college-ready and career-ready.

Michael has spent two decades creating opportunities and giving all Denver kids the same chance to succeed he had. Michael oversaw programs for 11,000 inner-city youth, established the Foundation for the New Frontier to support families in need, and as President of the City Council, he has championed before- and after-school programs, summer camps, libraries, recreation centers and other services to support kids.

Michael is a strong advocate for education reform and school choice. He helped write the bipartisan Innovative Schools Act of 2008, pushed for the Educator Effectiveness Act of 2010 and supported turnaround plans for Far Northeast Denver and Manual High School. Michael graduated from Manual in 1987 and now has two kids attending Denver Public Schools. While DPS is improving – enrollment is up, more students are graduating and test scores are climbing – too many schools are still failing and too many students are still dropping out.

Like many families throughout Denver's neighborhoods, Michael and his wife Mary struggled with the decision to send their son Jordan to a low-performing school down the street or drive 18 miles across town to a high-performing public school. Not every family can do this. But more importantly, no family should have to choose between a failing local school or a distant better school. As Mayor, Michael will fight to ensure every neighborhood has excellent schools. He will fight for all children with a fierce urgency as the city’s No. 1 Concerned Parent-in-Chief. He will create a comprehensive strategy to prepare students for every stage of life from cradle to college to community. He will:

  • Appoint a Manager of Children’s Affairs who will be charged with breaking down silos and convening City department heads whose agencies impact kids, including the Office of Economic Development, into a Children’s Cabinet.
  • Forge a Denver Compact that will bring the City, DPS, higher education, businesses and foundations together to improve educational opportunities for kids, while also reviving the dormant City-School Coordinating Commission.
  • Launch a comprehensive early childhood initiative from the Mayor’s Office.  


School-Ready: Early Childhood Initiative

As Mayor, Michael will make Denver’s youngest kids his top priority. He will establish Denver as a national leader in health care and education for children from prenatal to preschool by:

  • Launching a “Ready Child” early-childhood initiative that will galvanize public and private sector partners; coordinate existing programs, agencies and foundations; identify gaps in service; and lead efforts to fill unmet needs.
  • Working with community leaders and nonprofits to identify programs aimed at educating parents and community members on ways they can take an active role in improving their children’s lives and education from the moment they are born.
  • Ensuring each child has access to high-quality early-childhood education programs.
  • Ensuring every child gets a healthy start in life through access to health care programs such as Medicaid and CHP+. It also means that each child is well fed through nutritious breakfast, lunch, and summer food programs.


The Denver Compact: City-School-Community Partnership

While city government and the Denver school district are separate, they serve the same taxpayers and share many of the same goals, such as improving education in all neighborhoods, working with community partners, and finding new ways to share costs and save money so that students will be college-ready and career-ready. Michael knows there is no better economic development incentive than high-quality schools, and as Mayor, Michael will be a true partner with DPS and the neighborhoods they serve by:

  • Creating a meaningful Denver Compactthat will bring together the city, DPS, higher education, the foundation community and businesses. This collaborative agreement will be based on mutual accountability, high standards and common goals, including educational excellence and providing businesses with a skilled workforce. This outcome-driven Compact will require each partner to make specific commitments, agree to high standards, and abide by clear measures of progress. It will:
  • Require greater operational efficiencies between the city and DPS, improved graduation rates and school performance, increased opportunities for an affordable college degree, and a minimum number of internships for high school and college students.
  • Promote coordination among businesses, higher education, and workforce training programs to ensure Denver is providing companies with the best-educated and best-skilled employees in the country, with an emphasis on key industry clusters poised to grow in Colorado, including clean-tech, health care and aerospace/aviation.
  • Establish a Community Report Card to ensure transparency, measure progress and hold the Compact partners accountable.
  • Create a streamlined process for businesses and nonprofits to become directly involved in education.
  • Provide a reservoir of information for all stakeholders, including the public.


  • Renewing the City-School Coordinating Commission, which was established by ordinance in 1975 but currently is inactive. By reviving and re-energizing this panel, the city and DPS will update cost-sharing agreements and identify new opportunities for efficiencies. Michael will ensure dollars saved on maintaining playgrounds, mowing grass, plowing snow and picking up trash are driven back into the classroom.
  • The Commission will advance a cooperative discussion about adequate funding for the educational needs of all Denver’s students and craft district-wide strategic approaches to meeting those needs.
  • The Commission – and the next Mayor – will leverage resources to support DPS, because educating our children is the entire community’s responsibility, by:
  • Working with developers and stakeholders to ensure affordable housing for educators so they can live near the schools in which they teach.
  • Strengthening partnerships with nonprofits to expand after-school and summer enrichment programs and extend City library services.
  • Partnering with education stakeholders to pursue federal and private-sector education grants.
  • Fostering private sector relationships dedicated to empowering faculty and teachers with innovative teaching programs at all levels


College & Career-Ready

Lifelong success is the third leg of the educational stool. An accessible, affordable and high-quality higher education system is vital for Denver’s economic health and overall quality of life. As Mayor, Michael will work closely with college and career leaders by:

  • Partnering with the Auraria Higher Education Center on multiple initiatives, including efforts to better connect the 40,000-student, 125-acre campus physically and intellectually to Downtown and better engage campus officials in key decisions about Denver’s future. As someone who earned his master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Denver, Michael understands what an important asset the campus is to Denver’s economic vitality.
  • Establishing internship and practicum programs within City agencies for Auraria students, giving students real-world work experience in a variety of fields.
  • Maximizing existing agencies, such as the City’s WorkForce Development Office, to help students transition into the workforce.
  • Creating stronger partnerships to promote and support job-training and job-placement programs with the growing number of private college campuses in Denver.
  • Working with trades and technical colleges and continuing education programs for adults to ensure that pathways to meaningful careers are provided for skilled professionals.
  • Working closely with the University of Colorado to find a sustainable redevelopment project for the vacant Health Sciences Center at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.   
Michael's Strategic Plan to Create Opportunies for ALL Kids.pdf250.1 KB