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Cary Kennedy releases education plan but few details on paying for it

Author: Joey Bunch - October 19, 2017 - Updated: October 19, 2017

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Kennedy educationFormer State Treasurer Cary Kennedy and CU Regent Jack Kroll greet arrivals at the Denver County Democratic Party reorganization meeting in February at South High School in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics file photo)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy rolled out her education plan for Colorado Thursday.

The plan, her campaign says, will make sure that by the time a Colorado kid turns 19 — “regardless of where they live and how much their family makes” — is prepared for higher education.

“As governor I will make education our top priority,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Great public schools are the only way to make sure that our state’s progress reaches everyone. For every Colorado kid to succeed, we need every classroom to be led by a great teacher, and every teacher to have the support they need to ensure the success of all of their students.”

The education plank of her platform, as presented Thursday, is more a goal than an action document. It doesn’t answer the single biggest question that always sours the blend of politics and schools: how to pay for it.

Her campaign, however, points to her history of raising money for schools. She wrote Amendment 23, the successful constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 and required the legislature to increase K-12 per pupil funding by the rate of inflation plus 1 percent each year through 2011.

While she was state treasurer from 2006 to 2010, she worked with the legislature to create the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, competitive grant program to help schools with education services and construction.

She is vowing to make education her top priority as governor, but she will, of course, have to negotiate with tax-stingy Republicans. In an e-mail to supporters, Kennedy said she would seek to repeal the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the 1992 constitutional amendment that puts a cap on state spending. Many Democrats have sought to do that, but none have gotten very far. Colorado voters would have to decide the issue, not the governor or legislature.

Her plan as released Thursday calls for addressing teacher shortages by paying them like professionals. Kennedy’s campaign said teachers should be able to afford to live where they work without a second job or government assistance to get by. They should earn at least the national average, her platform contends.

The average starting salary for teachers in Colorado is $32,126 a year, the National Education Association says. Pay is lower in rural communities, making it hard for them to attract faculty.  Nationally teachers start out earning on average $36,141.

Among surrounding states, Colorado is somewhat in the middle. Wyoming pays an average of $43,269 to starting teachers, while Utah and Kansas both pay a bit more than $33,000 a year. New Mexico pays $31,960 and Nebraska pays $30,844, according to NEA.

Kennedy also vows to expand the “talent pipeline” and bring more diversity to Colorado’s teaching ranks.

“Research has shown significant benefits for students served by teachers who better represent the demographic makeup of their student populations,’ Kennedy’s campaign said in an announcement Thursday.

Kennedy would work to increase scholarships, apprenticeships and other incentives to attract people to teaching and provide teachers of color in their respective communities.

It’s worth noting that the elected state school board retains most of the authority over education programs, not the governor.

The full plan is available by clicking here.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated to include information from Kennedy’s e-mail to supporters.)

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


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