A high-quality public education for all Coloradans is essential to ensuring that every child in Colorado has an opportunity to live their American Dream. Today, Colorado ranks last in teacher wage competitiveness, and in the bottom tenth for both per-student and overall education spending. In HD6 alone, there are dozens of schools and thousands of students who demand the attention and investment of elected officials. We must do better and prioritize education funding, even in this time of unprecedented budget cuts.
Investing in the education of Coloradans is an investment in the future of Colorado. Prioritizing education also requires innovation and creativity when approaching the unique challenges of education in our ever-growing city and state. This is even more pressing when we consider the need to address the unique set of circumstances that COVID-19 presents to our traditional form of education. All students, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or background should have access to equitable, high-quality resources; well-prepared, well-supported, and well-paid educators; and opportunities to ensure the support of each student’s individual needs. This is why I support revitalizing the teacher preparation space to ensure inspired educators and pursuing resource equity through creative strategies, ensuring that our teachers and their families are included in the conversation as we continuously improve and evaluate our state’s approach to education.
Some of My Key Agenda Items Include:
Standing with Public Education and Neighborhood Schools - I am committed to keeping our public schools as a top funding priority during any budget conversation. Recognizing that we face serious budget cuts due to the COVID-19 crisis, cuts to education must only be considered or made as a last resort and with the greatest care possible to ensure that teacher salaries and the quality of education do not suffer. In the past, TABOR has been used to justify Colorado’s low rankings in education funding. While TABOR is certainly a part of the funding challenge, it is my belief that education funding has not been considered a necessary priority in the state’s annual budget.
Standing with our Teachers - Teacher’s are some of our state’s greatest patriots. Because of lack of funding, teachers everyday dig into their own pockets to provide school supplies to our children, and many work extra jobs in order to simply afford the cost of living in Denver and surrounding areas. We can and must do better by our teachers, providing them with the resources they need to properly do their job while also guaranteeing a livable wage.
Preschool - In order to remain competitive, education of Colorado’s children must start as early as the preschool level. Preschool provides children the socialization and basic skills necessary to succeed in future classroom settings. Preschool shouldn’t be a luxury only available to some of Colorado’s families. A successful program should be phased in over time and state funding can kick in on a tiered, income based system. The investment will not only benefit Colorado long term, but must be a high priority if we want to even the playing field for all students.
Higher Education - Our state higher education institutions are an essential part of Colorado’s public educational opportunities. About 76 percent of Colorado’s students attend in-state college or university, which have received less and less state funding every year. We must make certain that we are investing in our state schools, and focusing on lowering tuition for Coloradans — not raising it. We must also commit to public service loan forgiveness programs that incentivize Colorado’s best and brightest, regardless of economic status, to be interested in public service. Lastly, the legislature must explore a model of free college for COVID-19 health care workers and other front-line workers: it is a well-deserved way to repay these individuals for their dedication to Colorado. I also support the Attorney General’s efforts to oppose the federal government’s weakning of the protections for victims of sexual assault on campus.
Education and Mental Health - Mental Health is central to the success of Colorado’s students and teachers. The suicide and depression rates among Colorado’s youth are among the highest in the country, and we cannot expect our children to succeed if their mental health is not addressed in an academic setting. Additionally, this places a burden on teachers when their students are not able to be fully engaged in the classroom due to unaddressed depression, anxiety and other behavioral health conditions common among Colorado’s youth. The legislature must require that local school districts have concrete group and individual therapy referral programs; and utilize local resources, including non-profit organizations, to ensure that basic mental healthcare is available to each student in the district. Students must also have resources available if they need additional behavioral health treatment. It is essential that we invest in Colorado’s students’ mental health to ensure that they can succeed inside and outside of the classroom. It is also important that statewide funding is allocated to ensure the mental health of our teachers and that health insurance programs offered to teachers offer guaranteed coverage for their mental health needs.