As an educator with school age children, I am personally invested in solving the educational challenges facing our state.
As an educator with school age children, I am personally invested in solving the educational challenges facing our state. Despite our state’s prosperity, we rank near the very bottom when it comes to teacher pay and per pupil spending. We must ensure that our children have access to an excellent education. This is key, not only to realizing the social mobility and economic opportunity of the American dream, but also to creating a competent and engaged citizenry.
This means that our schools should be better funded. Teachers do not go into education for the money, but when they face packed classrooms and swollen class rosters, they are simply unable to engage students the way they were meant to. Over crowded classrooms mean that best practices are often foregone for the sake of expediency, that students who require extra attention do not receive it, and that some of our best young teachers burn out. Money alone cannot solve our educational challenges. But it does make a difference, when spent where it is needed most.
Providing access to different educational options is also critical to achieving our state's educational goals. Student who attend charter schools tend to have well documented improvements in their academic performance. For this reason, I support charter schools. But we must ensure that students of every socio-economic background have equal access to these schools, by removing barriers such as a lack of transportation.
As someone who works in higher education, I can tell you that our state has some world class universities and colleges. In general, America’s university system is the envy of world, but we must not take this national treasure for granted. Colorado’s universities should be bastions of top notch research and scholarship, rivaling the best public universities in any state. And they should be affordable to all Coloradans, providing them with the education they need, not only to be skilled workers, but also to be engaged, thoughtful citizens.
To that end, our universities and colleges should hold free speech in the highest regard, creating a marketplace of truly diverse ideas. They should also be better funded and leaner, with more money being spent on quality faculty and learning environments, and less on bloated administration and unnecessary diversions. Colorado is second worst in the nation in funding it’s public universities. To compete, we must make additional funding available to our public institutions, but that additional funding should be conditional on more disciplined spending on the part of those schools.
Of course, a four year degree is not the only path to a successful, fulfilling career, nor should it ever be presented as such. Now more than ever our state needs the kind of skilled, diligent workers that vocational and technical schools produce. As someone who comes from a long line of agricultural and industrial workers, I understand the dignity and pride of producing something valuable through the skill of one’s own hands. We need to encourage young people to match their abilities and interests to the right career for them, and support the educational mission of vocational and technical schools.