One of the main cornerstones of our democratic society is providing a good public education to all. Moreover, if we as a nation and a state are to remain competitive in the world economy, everyone must have the opportunity for a quality education. I believe there is no greater responsibility of Colorado state government - the Governor and the State legislature - than to ensure that every child receives a quality education from early childhood through high school graduation. In addition, college should be readily accessible for those who have the ability and desire for higher education.
There is strong evidence that Colorado is currently not meeting this responsibility. It is 48th in the nation in K-12 spending, 49th in spending for teacher salaries and benefits, and 41st in the nation in student-to-teacher ratio. 2004-2005 figures show us that Wyoming spends $2,525 more than Colorado per student, and Nebraska spends $552 more. I know we can do better and I am committed to working hard to make it happen. In order to make this responsibility a reality, I support a coordinated effort at both the state and local level to identify a joint vision for public education and to act on that vision through effective programs and through tax reform at both a local and state level. In this effort, I would support the establishment of reasonable standards and assessments, applied equally to all school districts receiving public funds. However, I also believe that each school district has unique needs and challenges and that elected school boards are in a better position to make decisions about the policies and programs that will achieve these standards in their districts.
I do not support the current "No Child Left Behind" (state mandated, but not funded) testing system and punitive measures for schools that do not meet the testing standard. I do support the current, collaborative efforts of Governor Ritter's P-20 Council to develop a comprehensive plan for public preschool and kindergarten through 12th grade education for Colorado. I support establishing a statewide structure with the authority to oversee early, pre-kindergarten care, including education programs and funding streams that will lead to equity in program quality and funding for all children in the state. I support providing additional funding and resources to promote school safety through truancy, gang and bullying prevention, and intervention programs and services. In addition, I would support funding to assist school districts in developing alternative energy management and conservation, and believe we must address the disparity among school districts in the ability to pay for capital facilities. Finally, I would support improving state funding to increase teacher quality and staff development. I am committed to finding ways to make sure that teachers are paid appropriately for the very important role that they play in educating Colorado's children. Clearly, much of education reform in Colorado will involve a higher level of both state and local funding for schools. Therefore, I am committed to comprehensive reform of the Colorado school finance act and overall state tax structure.