Too many of our schools are underfunded, overcrowded, and have underpaid teachers. Things must change if we are to prepare our kids to compete for jobs of the future.
Education is the silver bullet, the magic answer to lifting people out of poverty. We now have one of the lowest funding levels of K-12 education in the United States. We are currently one of the best educated states in the country, but that will not last if we don’t address this issue today. How can we promise our children a brighter future than we had if we don’t provide them with superior education?
As a common-sense Independent, I will work to take the best ideas, no matter where they come from, and bring people together to find common ground and solutions that address our funding problems -- while making sure all funds are appropriately spent.
We must ensure our kids have an opportunity to go to a college, vocational, or technical school of their choice -- no matter what part of town they grew up in. This means having teachers in our schools who are committed to helping our students, smaller classroom sizes, and updated technology so our kids can learn new skills and be ready for the jobs of the future.
Here are my top three priorities for public education legislation:
Funding Shortfall: Despite Colorado’s booming economy, school funding still lags. TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment, and Amendment 23 have had some unintentional consequences in holding back funding for education in Colorado. Keeping this important issue a priority, and bridging the partisan divide to find practical, common-sense solutions is my pledge to my district and all residents of Colorado.
Teacher Shortage: Addressing the factors that contribute to the shortage of teachers (and the overwork of the current teachers) is crucial to improving all aspects of Colorado’s education system. This includes low salaries, a culture that seems obsessed with testing, lack of support and professional development and the social isolation that comes with teaching in small towns that turns off young people off from teaching careers. Some or all of these issues can be addressed legislatively. I will work closely with the local and statewide education organizations to find practical, cost-effective ways to attract skilled educators to Colorado.
Vocational, technical and secondary education: I strongly support programs such as the Career Pathways program provided by Colorado Springs School District 11. The trades are a crucial part of economic development for a community and a pathway to success for a great many students. Also, for those who are interested, a quality college education should be accessible to all.
Skyrocketing College Tuition Debt: Action must be taken to stem the tide of rising higher education tuition costs. Corporations should not be profiting from our children's student loan debt. Our economic development requires new skill sets. This could all be slowed to a halt if nothing is done. The high cost of tuition and the resultant crushing student loan debt discourages some from pursuing higher education. For those that do, it negatively impacts their lives and the community around them for years to come.
My action plan would include bringing together the stakeholders from the higher education institutions, alumni associations, high schools, community college, financing organizations, and the state, to identify both short and long-term solutions for Colorado, and then bringing specific solutions to the legislature to act on.