Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 14, 20173min344

Assuming you want to know even more about 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’s bid for the governor’s office — and, hey, maybe you do — it’s not too early to bring some of the Boulder Democrat’s ambitious goals back down to earth. Notably, his campaign proposal to offer free preschool and full-day kindergarten to all Colorado kids.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nicholas Garcia cuts to the chase and finds that Polis might have a hard time delivering, especially if, as he told Chalkbeat, he hopes to go to state voters for a tax hike to cover the “hundreds of millions of dollars required.”

Notes Garcia:

… Colorado voters historically have rejected statewide tax increases for education, and state lawmakers have little appetite to spend existing money on early childhood education.

… It’s unclear how much it would cost to pay for universal preschool access. The state spent $86 million in 2015 to send more than 21,000 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool through the Colorado Preschool Project.

To pay for full-day kindergarten for all Colorado students, the state would need to spend about an additional $250 million, according to a 2016 legislative analysis.

Garcia also runs the idea by a member of the General Assembly:

State Rep. Jim Wilson, a Salida Republican, has attempted to send more money to the state’s kindergarten classrooms for the last three years. He said he welcomed Polis’s commitment, but was skeptical.

“There’s a whole lot of difference between an election and reality,” he said. “I don’t see the governor’s office, no matter who is in there, sending a budget with $250 million for full-day kindergarten.”

Gessler, Scott.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 15, 20171min260

The state’s distinguished news service for all things education didn’t just tell its readers what its staff thought were the biggest stories — and biggest players — of the just-concluded 2017 legislative session; it asked them. And Chalkbeat Colorado’s ace correspondent Nicholas Garcia compiled the feedback and beamed out the results via the final edition of the service’s Capitol Report e-newsletter.

It includes distinctions like, who was the year’s “most valuable lawmaker” (hint: there are two); what was the most important education legislation (hint: it wasn’t the bill to “regulate student education loan servicers”), and which committee was most fun to watch (State Affairs? Sorry, no).

We are of course not telling you the answers because you can read them here, penned by Garcia himself. Enjoy.

8Trailblazers at Wiens.jpg

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 5, 20173min286

States like Colorado make much of the fact that their elected lawmakers are really only part-timers; the pay is $30,000 plus per diem and mileage reimbursement. That’s for the four months the legislature is in session plus service on year-round committees and other responsibilities. It’s known as a “citizen legislature.”

Some say the members are overworked and underpaid while others say they’re lucky to get paid at all.

And then there are Elaine Menardi and Jess Buller. She is education program coordinator for Wings Aerospace Academy in Denver, and he is principal of West Grand Elementary and Middle School in Kremmling. As profiled this week by Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nicholas Garcia, the full-time educators spent countless hours, mostly after hours, drafting this session’s House Bill 1201.

And they didn’t even get a per diem, much less a lawmaker’s part-time pay.

Garcia writes:

The bill creates a special high school diploma that shows colleges and employers that graduates are proficient in a blend of coursework that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The legislation is the byproduct of a year-long policy fellowship run by the national education reform nonprofit America Achieves.

The bill passed the legislature and is expected to be signed this month by Gov. John Hickenlooper. All thanks to the sweat equity of a couple of true citizen legislators.

As Menardi told Garcia: “In the thick of things, between November and February, we were easily putting in a couple of hours every night.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, you’ve met your match — and maybe then some.

Thanks to Garcia for this uplifting take on the lawmaking process. Read his full story; here’s the link again.