Stapleton rolls out education policy

Author: Joey Bunch - August 31, 2018 - Updated: September 13, 2018

Walker StapletonRepublican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton speaks at a campaign even with his son, Craig, and state GOP chairman Jeff Hays. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Democrat Jared Polis has been touting his education policy, including free full-day preschool, for months. On Friday his Republican opponent in the Colorado governor’s race will unveil his detailed education plan.

Colorado Politics managed an early look at Walker Stapleton’s plan to put “more money in our classrooms and more money in parents’ pockets where it belongs.” He’ll do that by cutting administration costs, creating annual sales tax holidays on back-to-school shopping and providing tax-free education savings accounts for parents.

As Stapleton has said throughout his candidacy, he remains a proponent of school choice, namely charter schools, his campaign tells us.

“It’s up to the next governor to make sure our classrooms are adequately funded and parents have more choices when it comes to their child’s education,” Stapleton said in a statement. “I’m confident my proposals will help hardworking Colorado families and, most importantly, help our students succeed.”

You can read more about his platform by clicking here.

His campaign pointed to Colorado Department of Education data from 2011 to 2017 showing enrollment grew by 6.3 percent and faculty grew by 8.1 percent, but administration grew by a whopping 34.6 percent.

Stapleton plans to take money spent on bloated administration and redirect those dollars to teachers’ pay.

“In order to retain the best teachers in the country, we should be using our education dollars to pay our teachers and get more money into classrooms to help students succeed,” said Stapleton. “This can be done with existing funds if we increase transparency in the budgeting process and direct dollars to the teachers and the classrooms where they belong.”

His savings plan proposal would allow parents to save for education expenses, “including early childhood education, music lessons, tutoring services, and career and technical educational programs,” according to the platform plank.

Stapleton called it “commonsense policy” to cut a tax break to parents’ spending on education.

Told the broad outlines of Stapleton’s forthcoming plan, the Polis campaign fired shots at his history. Democrats, without seeing his plan, have called his pledge to fund schools “the biggest lie” of the governor’s race.

“Colorado’s public schools are chronically underfunded, and yet Walker Stapleton has opposed school funding again and again and again,” Polis’ spokesperson Mara Sheldon told Colorado Politics. “He’s even suggested (in 2010) that existing public school funds would be better spent on prisons. Just a few weeks ago, he was running ads bragging about his ‘success’ defeating efforts to fund our schools. Jared Polis has been fighting for Colorado’s public schools throughout his career, and he is the only candidate in this race with a plan to ensure every child in Colorado has a quality education.”

Polis was a prime supported of Amendment 23 for school funding in 2000 but he was on the sidelines for the failed Amendment 66 measure Stapleton helped defeated in 2013 and he has not endorsed Initiative 93, a $1.6 billion effort this year.

The Republican nominee, of course, lacks the backing of the state teacher’s union, which endorsed Polis this month. But so did Polis in the primary, when the Colorado Education Association backed Cary Kennedy and ran an attack ad against Polis.

“Our members share Jared’s concern that too many communities don’t have the resources they need for every child to succeed,” Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association, said in a statement. “We have created ‘haves and have-nots’ among our children, and nowhere is that more apparent than with our youngest students who don’t receive the same level of quality early childhood education. Jared impressed us with his strong commitment to give all kids a great start and better prepare them for a successful lifetime of learning.”

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.