Joe's father taught school for 33 years and helped him learn that each child learns differently. Colorado need more schools that understand this important fact; and we need to develop a rigorous curriculum, with an emphasis on critical thinking skills, not standardized tests, to help each student excel. It is important to focus on small class sizes, parental involvement and supporting trained, experienced, accountable teachers. These are the education fundamentals that will increase high school graduation rates and reduce high school drop outs.
We must be innovative by encouraging more Career Technical schools, especially for Junior High students at risk of dropping out. If we inspire more young people to become excited about a career path, they will be more likely to remain in school. In addition, we need to emphasize the importance of civic, art, choir, theater and related courses. These programs increase test scores in other classes and inspire young people to become more well rounded citizens.
We need to invest in more college scholarships and Pell grants so that more students can afford to attend college or university and achieve their unique version of the American Dream. This is both an investment in our future and a way to strengthen the economy. Too many graduates are leaving college with crippling debt. This debt reduces a college graduate's professional options and limits career opportunities. College should be a spring board to success, not a lifelong financial burden.
Some of Joe's other efforts to improve education includes:
Joe proudly serves on the City Year Colorado Board of Directors, which is a 23 year old AmeriCorps program. City Year hires recent college graduates to work with teachers, students, parents, and administrators in the most challenging schools to reduce high school dropout rates. The City Year Corp members work for one year, are paid a small stipend, and change the lives of young people through positive mentoring relationships, tutoring, and other activities.
Joe supported efforts to allocate $90 million from the State Education Fund to address funding shortfalls in districts. The money will be applied to the neediest schools and districts across the state for changes in enrollment, special needs students, and to reduce mid-year cuts.
Joe sponsored a bill to update the Teacher of the Year award so that we could properly honor the best teacher of the year.
Joe supported the Start Smart School Breakfast so that thousands of low-income children across this state can start their school day with a nutritious breakfast, so that they are better equipped to learn and thrive.
Joe supported efforts to streamline teacher licensing to help ease the backlog of teacher license applications at the Department of Education and reenter the classroom faster.
Joe supported efforts to redefine bullying to include electronic forms of bullying--an increasing trend--and supported a school bullying and prevention grant for schools to address concerns and implement solutions to create healthy, safe and productive learning environments.