Editor's note: In the weeks before the Nov. 2 election, The Denver Post is asking Colorado's three gubernatorial candidates to respond to a series of questions on some critical issues. This week, they tackle education, and were asked to respond to this question:
With another year of possible cuts to K-12 education, is Colorado's system underfunded? If so, how would you steer more money into it? What other education reforms should the state propose?
Over the last 10 years, the state's share of K-12 funding has grown from around one-half of overall education spending to almost two-thirds. And Amendment 23's spending mandates have plowed an additional $1 billion into education since its passage. Yet parents haven't seen the kinds of improvements they hoped for.
That's because government spending on education (like government spending on almost everything else) rarely guarantees better results. And that's something we continue to see when it comes to student achievement.
Last year, for example, just over 50 percent of students in Denver public high schools graduated on time. Of those students who do go on to college, more than half end up having to take at least one remedial course. That's a troubling record for Mayor John Hickenlooper, and for those supporters of Amendment 23 who promised us that putting state education spending on autopilot would solve all of our problems. It hasn't.
I was a public school teacher, my wife was a public school teacher, and my kids went to public schools. I support public education, and I believe we can improve its quality. But reform means more than a bigger dollar figure on a state budget line item.
First, it means more flexibility and control for local school boards, parents and school superintendents. State and federal bureaucrats have been mandating and meddling for too long. That's why I was one of a few Republican members of Congress to oppose the No Child Left Behind Act. As governor, I will empower local school districts, not tell them what to do.
It also means making it easier to fire bad teachers who are failing to make the grade. The tenure reforms approved this year by the legislature are a good start. As governor, I will build on those reforms by demanding even more vigorous performance and accountability standards for our schools, and continuing education for teachers.
Finally, I believe we can modernize and improve our public schools by introducing more competition and more educational choice. As governor, I will expand online learning, increase school choice in the form of additional charter and magnet schools, and improve the opportunities available to at-risk students in under- performing public schools by promoting school choice.