Cary’s Plan for K-12 Education: Every Student Career and College Ready

As governor, I will make education Colorado’s top priority.  It isn’t acceptable that our economy ranks at the top and our investment in education, K-12 and higher education, ranks at the bottom.  We have been cutting our state’s education budget in Colorado for nearly three decades ever since the TABOR amendment passed.  The result is that today half of Colorado’s school districts have cut back to a four-day school week and we pay our teachers among the lowest salaries in the country.  It’s no surprise that Colorado faces a teacher shortage.  Teachers cannot afford to live here.  Every day good teachers are leaving the state or leaving the profession.  We can do so much better. I grew up with three brothers and sisters who joined my family through the foster care system, so I know what it means when children don’t get the opportunities they need to succeed.  I am concerned that our education system is focused too much on high stakes testing, narrowing curriculums and blaming teachers. Colorado can and should have one of the best education systems in the country — one that matches our state’s great progress.  We need to support our schools and educators so they can give every student in Colorado the opportunity to succeed. This will be my top priority as Colorado’s governor.

A Great Teacher for Every Classroom

“Colorado teacher shortage declared a crisis” – Fox31 News, July 28, 2017

Every kid in Colorado needs a great teacher in every classroom.  But here in Colorado we are losing good teachers to other states because our salaries cannot compete. Studies show Colorado is one of the ten least attractive states to work as a teacher because of low salaries, lack of support and insufficient professional development. With one of the best economies in the country, we can do so much better. Students living in poverty or in rural parts of our state are most affected by this growing crisis.

Paying Teachers as Professionals

We know that good teachers are the single most important factor in a student’s academic success. Colorado needs to pay its teachers better. Teachers should be able to afford to live in the community where they work, without having to take a second job or go on public assistance. Colorado should attract and retain the best and brightest in teaching, and support the great teachers we have working today in our classrooms.

  • The average starting salary in Colorado for teachers is $32,126 and is even lower in rural areas of our state. In some rural counties, teachers make 24% less than the average cost of living for the area where they teach.
  • More than 20% of mid- to late-career teachers in our state hold down second jobs. This is the sixth highest percentage in the country.
  • Mid-career Colorado teachers who head families of four or more qualify for seven public benefit programs, the highest number of any state.
  • Colorado’s teachers make 26% less than professionals with comparable levels of education. This is the second worst teacher pay penalty in the country.

The lack of investment in our teachers is compromising public education in Colorado.  Every day we lose great teachers and lose the potential to give our kids the great education that we want for them.  We need to pay teachers a competitive, professional salary that allows them to live in the communities where they teach. Higher pay will promote a larger supply of potential teachers making jobs more competitive and increasing the quality of teachers.

My goal as governor is to raise teacher pay in Colorado at least to the national average and close the teacher pay penalty, which is the difference between what a teacher earns and other professionals with the same education. This will help guarantee that every Colorado student, by the age of 19, regardless of where they live and how much their family makes, is ready for higher education, a career, or both.

Protecting Retirement

My experience as State Treasurer and CFO of Denver makes me uniquely qualified to provide the leadership needed to keep the Public Employee’s Retirement Association (PERA) of Colorado on sound financial footing. Over 10% of Colorado’s population rely on PERA instead of Social Security, and as with Social Security, a pension is a promise. It is essential we protect the retirement savings of so many Coloradans. Especially when those retirement saving equate to $3.8 Billion annually to the 98,332 Colorado residents helping to sustain over 32,807 jobs and $6.1 billion in economic output across Colorado. While I was State Treasurer, I helped lead efforts to strengthen PERA by improving the status of PERA by over $9 billion — the largest improvement in its history. As Governor, I will continue to provide this leadership to ensure we maintain our commitment to public employees and keep our state on sound financial footing.

Expanding the Teacher Talent Pipeline and Developing a More Diverse Teaching Workforce

Colorado needs to expand its talent pipeline for great teachers and expand opportunities for people who want to pursue a career in teaching. Research has shown significant benefits for students served by teachers who better represent the demographic makeup of their student populations.

  • Scholarships for Future Teachers: As Governor, I will start a scholarship fund using state dollars — matched with private dollars from the foundation and business communities — for students at public higher education institutions who will commit to teaching in hard-to-serve, hard-to-staff schools.
  • Teacher Apprenticeship Programs:  My administration will expand teacher apprenticeship programs so that districts can support teachers in their first few years on the job, improving student performance and decreasing turnover rates among young teachers. We can build on existing programs and create public-private partnerships to help fund these programs. With our growing economy, the business community has an incentive to invest in Colorado’s talent pipeline. We will provide mentoring, professional development, and support for new teachers.
  • Concurrent Enrollment for High School Students Interested in Education: Colorado will expand opportunities for high school students to take education classes and graduate with education certificates that expose them to the teaching profession and train them to work as paraprofessionals in classrooms.

Increasing scholarships, apprenticeships, and concurrent enrollment will help Colorado recruit top talent into teaching, increase teachers of color and empower teachers to serve in their own communities.

Empowering Teachers to Be Leaders

Teachers are leaders. We need to support teachers and equip them to better prepare Colorado’s students for the workforce and higher education.

  • Expand the Role Teachers Play in Evaluation Systems: Our current evaluation system does not utilize the expertise of teachers, nor help them improve as professionals. We need a system that puts the student first and focuses on helping every teacher improve student learning. I support giving teachers’ perspectives and expertise more weight in student, teacher and school evaluations.
  • Increase Opportunities for Teachers’ Professional Advancement: I will support school districts in developing programs that allow experienced, high-quality teachers to provide leadership for more junior teachers, help design evaluation systems, and participate in collaborative teaching models. We need to provide our teachers with opportunities to advance in their profession while continuing to directly serve students in the classroom.

I will protect the rights of teachers and school staff to collectively bargain. That is the best process to ensure their expertise and perspective is given equal weight in decision’s that affect the success of schools and students.

Engaging the Community and Making Our Schools More Equitable

We are leaving some of Colorado’s kids behind, especially the ones that need us most. Colorado currently has the second largest achievement gap in the country; our students of color are performing well below their white classmates. I want all of our kids, regardless of background, to get the skills and education they need to succeed.

What happens outside of the classroom impacts the performance of our students and contributes to the inequities in Colorado’s schools. Making sure every Colorado student is ready for higher education, a career, or both includes solutions beyond the classroom.

  • Empower Families to Engage in Their Child’s Education: I will help support school districts’ efforts to expand programs that involve families and support their engagement in our schools.
    • Offer two-generation learning opportunities for parents through after-school classes, including ESL, GED, personal finance, and technology classes.
    • Expand district-wide family development programs that teach parents how to work with teachers, what the academic standards mean, and how to support their children in their school work.
    • Universal Access to Quality Preschool and Full Day Kindergarten: Across Colorado, only about half of all young children are enrolled in preschool, or full-day kindergarten. Quality early education is essential for students to succeed and must be available to all young children in our state.
    • Make Access to Technology More Equitable: I will support school districts in providing more opportunities for students to access technology needed for school work.
      • Ensure every student has access to a computer or tablet.
      • Train teachers and school leaders to better utilize educational technology.
      • Ensure all students have access to broadband services.
      • Teachers need support from other professionals: We need to make sure that every district can support nurses, counselors and all of the staff that help students grow and succeed.
      • Support Students:  Each student comes to school with a diverse and unique set of challenges and strengths. From food insecurity to social-emotional health, Colorado students face a number of barriers. We need to support our school districts in ensuring families and kids in their community can access the wraparound services they need. Providing access to services that address out of classroom factors will help students and teachers focus on learning.
        • Additional support services are especially important for our students with special needs. We need to provide the services necessary to allow all students to learn and grow with their classmates at their neighborhood school.
      • Replicate the Principles of Community Schools: Community Schools empower teachers and recognize a community’s important role in the education of its kids. We should give districts the support the need to embrace these principles in schools across Colorado.

      Making Education Colorado’s Top Priority

      For Colorado to continue its growing prosperity we must make education our top priority. Great public schools are the only way to ensure that our state’s progress reaches everyone. I’ve helped lead some of the largest economic development projects in our state, which have brought global companies and jobs here. But, I see too many Colorado companies go out of state to fill their high-paying jobs because we aren’t preparing our kids. I want all of our kids, regardless of background, to get the skills and education they need so they can get the great jobs our state is creating. I will make public education Colorado’s top priority.