Colorado State: Polis offers investment in education

In an optimistic State of the Speech speech, Colorado Governor Jared Polis pledged to invest more in education, from preschool classrooms to university campuses, and highlighted his political achievements to date, including a free full-time kindergarten and a universal nursery school.

This is the last speech on the state of the state in Polis’ first term, and at times it sounded more like a pre-election speech for his second term.

“Helping children get a great education is not only the most important job of the state, but also the passion of my lifelong work,” said Polis, a former member of the State Board of Education and founder of the charter school network.

When he thanked the teachers for their work during the pandemic, he received a standing ovation from both sides of the alley.

“I want to thank all the educators and school staff who have done their part, done more than their part, to help keep schools in Colorado open,” he said. “There is nothing more important to the future of our state than educating children in Colorado.”

Although it promises to invest more – more in youth mental health, more in childcare and pre-school facilities, more in K-12 schools, more in workforce training and higher education institutions – Polis did not go into detail about new policy initiatives .

Polis’s proposed budget calls for an increase in K-12 education spending by almost 6%, saving money for future education needs and reducing the budget stabilization factor – money that lawmakers withhold from K-12 despite constitutional requirements to spend more – at its lowest point since the Great Recession . Its budget requires only a 1% increase for higher education.

Democratic lawmakers said they wanted more for higher education institutions that had been underfunded for decades and lost enrollment during the pandemic.

Senate Education Chairwoman Rachel Zenzinger said her biggest concern was the long-term effects of the pandemic, with a declining number of university students having a cascading impact on the workforce and the economy.

The state commission has made recommendations on how to use federal relief money to connect people with training to obtain credentials and titles that will lead to well-paid jobs. Polis said the recommendations “will help create a prosperous workforce where everyone in every community, in every corner of the state can live long and prosper.”

“I would like to hear more about the resumption of higher education funding,” Zenzinger said after the speech. “It won’t be permanent change if we don’t fund it, if it’s built on crumbling foundations.”

House Speaker Alec Garnett praised Polis for his “well-rounded report,” which called for more investment in classrooms and teachers.

“The idea of ​​continuing to create universal pre-K’s is amazing,” Garnett said. “These are things that Colorado people should feel really, really excited about.”

But Garnett reiterated Zenzinger’s hope that Polis and the state could do more for higher education.

“I think higher ed is still a cost point for many, many families,” Garnett said. “And I think you’ll see lawmakers working on such issues.”

Polis said he had worked with superintendents to reopen schools and praised his efforts to offer students and teachers test aids and masks. He also praised Colorado’s resilience and commitment in addressing COVID and thanked Central High School students at Mesa County.

With the help of school staff, Central students set up a number of vaccination clinics before many adolescents could be vaccinated. The students, he said, “eventually worked 10 to 11 hours to have more than 1,300 community members vaccinated.

Despite the resilience of teachers and the resources provided by the state, COVID cases continue to burden school staff and cause disruptions. Schools had to move away in dealing with the epidemic and drove the already burned-out teachers to a turning point.

Prosecutor Tim Geitner, a Republican of Falcon, said Polis did not address the damage caused during school closures.

“There has been applause for keeping the schools open. The schools have been closed, “said Geitner. “And test results show that 50% of Colorado students are not at grade level when you look at reading, and when you look at math, it’s a problem that can’t be applauded for.”

Geitner said state dollars should go directly to families so they can make the best possible decisions for their students.

Polis, on the other hand, highlighted the ways in which state dollars help children through new programs, and appointed families and educators.

He spoke of Grady, whose mother Melyssa Mead was able to quickly find him mental health support through the I Matter website, which was launched last year, and Benjamin, whose mother Alexis Ramirez can send him to kindergarten without paying tuition.

He also pointed to the work of wellness coordinator Brian VanIwarden and school counselor Stacy Andrews, who are part of a growing behavioral health team led by Jamie Murray at Cañon City Schools. In the past, they were dependent on subsidy programs and could not plan for the long term. They hired people and trained them to lose them to permanent, better-paid jobs.

With more funding in last year’s budget, the district has hired counselors for each school and can offer skills and emotional health courses for each child, starting with kindergarten, with more support for students who need more help, the paper said. speech conversation. The district can also offer more competitive salaries and ensure that counselors are not responsible for more than 250 students.

“We can build skills and qualities in children that don’t matter what the world is like in 10 years,” VanIWarden said. “These funds allow us to build this capacity. Whether the world changes or not, they are now ready to deal with it. ”

With pressure from lawmakers on both sides to spend more on education this year, Polis said it was focusing on long-term sustainability. His draft budget draws money specifically on education in the event of a future economic downturn.

“You can’t support programs like this if money rises one year and the next,” he said in an interview. “It’s better to maintain growth for several years.”

Governor Jared Polis in a N95 mask and suit walks through the decorated room that houses the Colorado House of Representatives.  He gives the lawmaker, a tall, thin man in a suit who also has a mask, a rush.

Governor Jared Polis, Attorney General Mike Weissman, after giving a speech on the state of the state. Democratic leaders praised Polis’ vision, saying they wanted to pay more attention to higher education.
AAron Ontiveroz / The Denver Post

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