Education is the most serious topic I want to address as a father, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. If we want our district, state, and nation to be great, we must invest in our children’s education. Their success and prosperity will be how we afford to remain powerful and continue to support our standard of living; our kids aren’t just competing for paychecks in Colorado Springs, Durango, or Loveland, they are in a global race to attend the best schools, build amazing companies, and attract talent to remain at the top of the global economy. The good news is that in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings of the best states, Colorado proudly ranks #10 overall, and is #1 for our economy. Unfortunately, we rank #20 for education (broken down as #9 for Higher Education, and a dismal #30 for pre-K through 12th grade). The disparity between our economic performance and our educational achievements should be embarrassing for Colorado lawmakers – what it really means is that we can attract talent, but we aren’t raising it.
Colorado teachers rank #46 for average pay, which competes directly with our #43 rating for affordability, and results in a ranking of #49 (behind Georgia) for providing teachers competitive pay. Low pay hurts our ability to recruit and retain teachers in our rural districts, and the high cost of housing keeps us from attracting teachers to our urban schools. In the current session of the state legislature, Representative Dave Young (D-District 50, Weld County) introduced House Bill 1232, creating a new public school funding distribution formula to replace the existing formula (from 1994). It will eventually require a statewide ballot initiative to increase taxes to fund additional investment in education for pre-K-12 and will start closing the gap between what we spend and what the Colorado Constitution Amendment 23 says we should be spending. Frankly, this is the kind of “no, duh” decision that the TABOR limits keep us from making—while I strongly support Representative Young’s bill, I am discouraged that increased education funding will still require a ballot initiative. In 2017, Colorado spent $2,685 below the national average per pupil (adjusted for regional cost differences); while Colorado dithers with what should be an easy decision, children in other states (and countries) are beating our kids to the best universities, including those here in Colorado.
While I support an increase in education funding, I’m also a firm believer in using data to drive our decisions; if an increase in pre-K through 12th grade funding doesn’t begin to produce improvement in student performance, I’ll be the first to advocate for a return to previous funding levels and seek other solutions. I wholeheartedly support local efforts to use charter schools to spur innovation in education, as long as the opportunity to attend is equal for all students and they are held accountable for the money they are spending. On a related topic, I can also support the return of school budget control and teaching methods to the local level, where parents, teachers, and administrators best know how to deliver the education our kids need to succeed. At the same time, the state provides almost two-thirds of funding for schools across the state (or $4.1 billion in the 2016-17 budget), giving the State a right to demand a return on investment, through the imposition of education achievement and curriculum standards against which local districts will be held accountable. The bottom line is that education in Colorado requires some serious change, increased investment, innovative solutions, and strict accountability so our kids have better jobs, better pay, and a higher standard of living than us.
1 – https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/colorado
2 – https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/27/health/west-virginia-teachers-salaries-trnd/index.html
3 – https://www.greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/statistics/
4 – https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb18-1232
5 – https://www.greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/statistics/
6 – https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance
References: https://www.coloradoea.org/sites/default/files/Advocacy%20Prof%20Prac/PolicyGuide2017-18.pdf ; https://www.greateducation.org/advocates-corner/resources/ ; https://www.cde.state.co.us/schoolview ; http://www.coloradosucceeds.org/blog/school-funding-colorado-need-know/