Public education has always been our society's "great equalizer" and anything we do at the state level that hinders our commitment to fully fund our public education system, without excessive or unattainable mandates must be addressed. This includes ensuring local control over curriculum delivery.
As a current Grand Junction City Councilmember, I am involved in discussions with all levels of policy and funding issues that affect our community. I try to get input from all sides of an issue while trying to come to a policy decision that addresses the needs of the most while keeping successful student outcomes at the forefront of the process.
I believe that supporting meaningful, relevant professional development primarily identified by educators themselves to continually hone the skill sets they need in their respective classroom settings is the best way to ensure buy-in and participation in what many educators see as unnecessary demands on their time when required programs do not address their real or immediate needs. Any system needs to have real choice and individualization so that each participant realizes maximum benefit.
The teacher shortage in Colorado, especially in rural areas, has reached crisis levels. There are an estimated 3,000 teacher openings in Colorado. With the drastic increase in the cost-of-living in Colorado, a nearly 25% decline in graduates from teacher preparation programs, and a rapidly aging teacher population, this issue appears to be both a short-term and long-term problem for Colorado.
Addressing this issue will take time and hard work. The short list includes addressing pay inequality, finally fixing the negative factor, and ensuring that mandates surrounding teacher evaluations are not unreasonable as is currently the case. I would like to explore capital incentive programs that would attract teachers to rural schools, and grant monies that would supplement cost of living (rent, etc) for metro areas that are currently unaffordable for most educators.
The state’s public education system requires increased funding at all levels, preschool through higher education. I will actively work for an adequate and equitable school finance system, including modifications to TABOR and the identification of new funding sources. We are the only state in the country that does not allow our legislature to control revenues for education. The first and most important issue to address concerns TABOR and specifically the Gallagher amendment. I will work to ensure this issue is addressed first, so that a predictable and reliable funding stream can be identified and counted on for future planning.