Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandMay 1, 20185min297

House Democrats are committed to wrapping up many of the same issues that Senate Republicans talked about Monday — the state pension plan, transportation, and reauthorizing the civil rights commission — but how they intend to get there couldn't be more different. And that shows the divide that must be bridged in the remaining days of the 2018 session.


Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 19, 20174min1077

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.)


Rachael WrightRachael WrightMay 11, 20177min403

Twenty Years Ago This Week in the Colorado Statesman … A new welfare law was finally agreed upon and the Legislature narrowly averted a special session. “That’s the art of compromise,” Gov. Roy Romer said. He said he would sign the latest version of the state's welfare reform law that had successfully met the requirements of new federal laws while passing muster on both sides of the Legislature's aisle.


Peter MarcusMay 1, 20174min528

Democrats and the state’s largest teachers’ union say Republicans have hijacked a critical school funding measure in the name of charter schools.

The annual School Finance Act, which lawmakers are constitutionally obligated to pass each year, was amended on Thursday to include equitable funding for charter schools.

Republicans, led by Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, have been pushing the effort since the start of the legislative session, hoping to require districts to distribute revenue from local property taxes equally to charters on a per-pupil basis.

A standalone bill on the subject, Senate Bill 61, passed the Senate, but it has not yet been introduced in the House. Political observers say the strong-arm tactic to attempt to address the issue through the School Finance Act is meant to apply political pressure.

“I do want to continue to pressure and keep the narrative up,” Hill said, as he introduced the amendment, according to a report by Chalkbeat Colorado.

Democrats appeared appalled that Hill would use a $6.5 billion annual K-12 education funding plan to advance a side issue on charter school funding. The effort would address revenue from additional property taxes that is used to pay for operations.

“To pick up Senate Bill 61, and slip it into the School Finance Act, is troubling and offensive to me,” said Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora. “When we look at mill levy overrides, that’s not state money. That’s local money. What was, and still is, the point of Senate Bill 61 is to take local control away from schools.

“The School Finance Act is not the place to send messages and play political games. I am extraordinarily disappointed in my colleagues for jeopardizing such an important bill for the education funding of our Colorado children.”

Republicans, however, boasted that even with the charter school funding, the legislation serves to fund public education. The measure would raise per-pupil funding by $179.

“Providing our kids and classrooms with fair and equitable funding they need to not only succeed, but thrive, should not be a partisan issue,” Hill said. “We have to work together to make sure we’re putting our kids first.

“Senate Republicans are standing up for our students, ensuring our schools have all the resources they need, and prioritizing the brightest possible version of our future; why aren’t Democrats?”

The Colorado Education Association expressed frustration.

“The Senate is playing shell games in the School Finance Act to move money from one type of school to another instead of tackling the real funding dilemma all schools face,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the teachers’ union. “Don’t play politics with how schools are funded.”


Ernest LuningErnest LuningApril 7, 20178min707

Colorado’s state budget has jumped by more than 19 percent over the last decade, measured in constant dollars, a free-market think tank says in a report delivered at the Capitol this week as lawmakers weigh next year’s budget. And nearly all of that increased spending has gone to health care,the study by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable found.