Real challenges call for Bold leadership.

Colorado, we have a lot to do.

Colorado’s teacher pay ranks 51st in the nation including Washington D.C. In addition, our schools have been asked to bear the burden of over $100M in funding shortfall due to COVID-19. We owe it to our students and our state’s future to do what’s right for our students. It’s a long road to recovery. Here’s where we begin:

Karla’s Priorities for Colorado

We need to provide parents and students the ease of mind needed to focus on success. School safety is a complex issue today, and it requires a multilateral and multifaceted approach. COVID has added a new area of safety that had not even been part of our past thought process. I do not support putting guns in classrooms, but I do believe Colorado schools should work with health professions, including those providing mental health services to support all students. The latest protests have shown how important it is to attend to the needs of our students of color and break the school to prison pipeline that is prevalent to this day. Our goal must always be to serve the changing needs of our students so that learning is equitable, especially those students who have been marginalized for so long.

Colorado schools have been hindered by budget cuts and a lack of resources and investment by the state in recent decades. This has put our kids at a big disadvantage compared to other students across the nation and world. We need to step up our game in a modernized economy, and provide Colorado schools with the resources, equipment, and funding they need to excel.

Teachers in Colorado receive 40% less than the average salary of any other Coloradan, with average starting pay at $33,483 for K-12 teachers. This is not a livable wage, and it has hurt our schools’ ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers. We need to address this pay gap and give teachers a much-needed and well-deserved raise. Otherwise, we’re looking at more four-day school weeks and unfilled positions.

The current system for funding schools is broken and out-of-date. Using property taxes and zip codes to determine funding levels provides an uneven playing field for students that hurts everyone, and widens the gap between rich and poor, haves and have-nots. We need to revamp our system and make sure that the schools and kids who need the most support get adequate funding and resources to succeed. We need to reevaluate the effects of TABOR and the Negative Factor on school funding, and look at solutions to get our schools back on track compared to national averages.

It is important that we have rational metrics for success to ensure that our schools are performing well and giving our kids the tools they need to succeed, but the current system of pitting school against school and child against child for limited resources is unfair and wrong. It propagates unequal education and simply doesn’t work. With more and more parents opting their students out of CMAS testing, it is time to bring stakeholders together to determine a better form of accountability. The sole purpose of accountability should be collecting data so students, parents, and educators can determine what next steps are needed to further student success. Today, CMAS is used as a tool to compare, praise, and punish disparate schools.

There are certain tools that every child needs to have to succeed: reading and comprehension, mathematics and number sense, and critical thinking skills. Colorado’s academic standards provide measurable goals, while allowing for the flexibility needed for each child based upon their unique needs. We should encourage flexibility to improve each students’ chance of success in and out of the classroom.

Education should be about kids, not profits. Charter schools can fill an important need in communities that are lacking strong neighborhood schools, but we have a responsibility to make both neighborhood and charter schools as strong as they can possibly be.

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