Strong public schools are the surest foundation for a growing economy and just society.  I support increasing funding for unfunded or underfunded mandates that drain resources from our kids’ schools.  In a district like ours, where the wealth gap can be substantial and where TABOR limits school funding, we cannot ignore other ways to get dollars into the classroom.

I will oppose all efforts to defund public schools for the sake of private interests, and will work to equip teachers and students with the tools they need for success.  Endless testing removes instruction time for our kids and interferes with their education.  It is a waste of time, it is a waste of resources and it strips morale away from students and teachers alike.

The President misstates the facts when he claims that free and reduced lunch programs and Head-Start programs do not help the neediest among us.  We need to ensure food programs are fully funded and delivered in a way that no stigma arises for those kids who need to use those services.  Head Start is an effective way to provide kids in poorer communities with an important first step in education.  It needs to be retained and augmented with further supports in primary school.

Early childhood education is critical for young children.  That is why wealthy families pay for high quality pre-schools.  This opportunity should not be reserved for the wealthy alone.  We must ensure that all American families have meaningful access to quality early-childhood education, to help the students get ahead.  Preschool not only supports families by improving their kids’ chances for educational success – it also provides economic relief to struggling parents who have problems with the high costs of child care.  Parents that are not independently wealthy can spend too much of their hard-earned dollars paying for child care in the preschool years.  With the shortage of jobs that pay a living wage, this can further trap working families that have too many needs and not enough dollars to address them.

Even when students in working families succeed in primary and secondary school, they can be trapped with poor options because the cost of college is so far beyond what they can afford.  We need to bring down the costs of higher education, while expanding the range of post-secondary options available to our students, so that they can truly receive benefits from their academic success.  College tuition costs skyrocketed making the burden of overwhelming student debt a terrible fear for any family that is not independently wealthy.

Four-year colleges are not the only avenue for post-high-school success, however.  Apprenticeship programs and technical degrees offer a path to economic independence outside a four-year college, while providing employers with skilled workers.  Our unions have a long track record of providing robust training apprenticeships that can enable our kids to find good-paying work in society.  Our armed services also offer qualified applicants with ways to both serve our country and earn a living.  While the revised graduation guidelines here in Colorado offer a good first step, we need also to look at other options to avoid leaving our students forced to choose between bad outcomes and trapping them in poverty, in dead-end jobs, or on an endless hamster wheel of debt repayment.

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