Gubernatorial Candidate Survey

Colorado’s next governor has the opportunity to propel millions of Colorado children into the middle class and beyond. This survey, distributed to all major candidates in spring 2018, shows where the candidates stand on key issues impacting schools in Colorado.

Colorado’s next governor has the opportunity to propel millions of Colorado children into the middle class and beyond. This survey, distributed to all major candidates in spring 2018, shows where the candidates stand on key issues.

GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE SURVEY QUESTIONS

Top 3 Education Priorities

If elected as Governor, what would be your top three education priorities for ensuring Colorado has the best schools in the country?

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Jared Polis (D)

Universal full-day kindergarten and preschool will give our children a head start on their learning which will improve their academic performance throughout their education, and also prevent parents from having to choose between their job or taking care of their child.

Studies have demonstrated that if we truly care about addressing the achievement gaps that exist along racial, geographic, and income lines, then early childhood education is the best investment we can make. I’m proud of the handful of districts leading in supporting additional preschool and kindergarten slots, but it’s time for statewide action.

Paying our teachers a competitive wage will help us end the teacher shortage across the state. Additionally, I will partner with Colorado’s business community, counties, and school districts to help provide affordable housing for teachers in high-need areas and pay down student loans for educators.

Finally, we must grow participation in dual and concurrent enrollment programs, and implement Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) education. Traditional pathways to a four-year college aren’t for every student, and as governor I will also boost the role of apprenticeships, skills training, and financial literacy to prepare students for success.

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Walker Stapleton (R)

  1. School Choice: Increase access to school choice, we are for all the above education. Be it public, charter, private or homeschool, let’s empower parents to find the best fit for their children to succeed.

  1. Smarter Spending: We need to get more out of each dollar in our classrooms.
  2. Empower Communities: 21st Century curriculum. Lets give the power back to the teachers, parents and administrators at the local level, and have the state help provide the best tools for them to customize educational outcomes. We need to make sure students are both college and career ready, acknowledging that different students will take different paths.

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Talent Pipeline

What are your top three strategies for increasing the graduation rate and the postsecondary attainment rate?

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Jared Polis (D)
The future of Colorado’s economy depends on providing avenues to success for young adults regardless of if they choose to attend a four-year college or a trade school.

We don’t have to wait until a student completes high school, either. My administration will prioritize boosting participating in dual and concurrent enrollment programs throughout the state.

Families can save thousands of dollars on a college education through these programs, and in many cases, even earn an Associates Degree while in high school at no or little cost to them. We should provide students who may have unique needs with more opportunities to earn an education. I’m proud to have founded the New America School which empowers immigrants with an education, as well as the Academy for Urban Learning which helps provide homeless youth with opportunities to learn.

Additionally, Colorado should lead the way on training for advanced robotics and manufacturing. Programs like CareerWise help create a development pipeline for students to receive certification in business, healthcare, financial services, and advanced manufacturing. And, P-Tech schools, like Skyline High School in St. Vrain School District, are leading the way to train students in programming, web design, and other advanced computer skills.

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Walker Stapleton (R)

  1. Be proactive, support at-risk students sooner: Identify at-risk students and increase support. Use data on attendance, suspensions, and academic failure to identify the most at-risk students. Dropping out usually doesn’t suddenly happen junior or senior year. Let’s identify the signs of a potential drop out early and help get them back on track, and sustain that support along the way to graduation. Buddy programs and student/teacher initiatives can be great tools. Additionally, I support creating smaller learning communities in school to help support students.

  1. Job Ready: Emphasize vocational and technical training. We can help get students into high skilled jobs and technical colleges. We need to move away from “factory” view of education, where each student comes out with same curriculum, and create alternative paths to empower students for the best outcomes. I want to emphasize adaptability and transferable skills whether it be in the arts, sciences, or technical disciplines. Specifically, I would allocate more resources on programs that cultivate partnerships with industry to get more students directly into the work force in high paying, middle-to-high skill jobs.
  2. College bound students: More access to AP and college level courses in high school. We want our kids to hit the ground running when they get into higher education. We need to emphasize making the transition to college easier.

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School Choice

How would you make sure all Colorado students have access to a high performing school regardless of their zip code?

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jared-polis

Jared Polis (D)
Our teacher shortage is one of the most troubling issues our state faces.

Children, particularly in rural areas, are struggling to earn a high-quality education because many school districts are unable to recruit talented teachers to serve in them. A large part of the reason for this is that Colorado teachers have suffered a 7.7 percent reduction in pay over the last decade. The single best thing we can do to correct this is to pay a competitive wage.

We can also do more to support high-quality public school choice. Parents should be empowered to choose their public school, whether a public charter, neighborhood, or magnet school, that’s best for their child, regardless of zip code. But too often, transportation is one of the biggest barriers to accessing school choice. As governor, I will work closely with school districts to support the creation of cost-effective transportation options for students, so that students can attend the public school that best prepares them for their bright future. I will also continue to advocate for strong accountability for all schools including schools of choice. While many public charter schools benefit from additional flexibility, that flexibility should always be coupled with thoughtful transparency and accountability.

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Walker Stapleton (R)
I am a strong advocate for school choice.

I think that it is insane to limit someone’s access to a world-class education based on where their parents get their mail. I support expanding access to charter schools and empowering parents, teachers, and students in their communities. I want to be clear that this is not at the expense of public schools. We need to continue to provide support and funding across the board. But too often entrenched interests characterize school choice as an either-or scenario. This is nonsense; it has to be an all-the-above attitude, where the metric of success is how many students we are empowering to lead thoughtful, happy, and successful lives as members of a vibrant society in Colorado.

Students in Colorado’s Charter Schools outperform their peers both nationally and on the state level in math and reading scores. I support continuing to empower charter schools and efforts like HB 1375, which became law last year. This law allows charter schools to access local funding and continues to improve the quality of education and variety of enriching activities at charter schools.

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Funding

How would you ensure Colorado’s schools have the financial resources they need to succeed?

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jared-polis

Jared Polis (D)
There is no reason that Colorado schools should be shortchanged in their funding at a time when our economy is one of the strongest in the nation. 

The negative factor has robbed rural schools of critical funds by nearly $800 million, and our School Finance Act is not keeping up with the needs of our schools, teachers, and students. I’ll work with our legislature to improve our funding formulas in the School Finance Act, and much like I did with Amendment 23, I will build a winning coalition to go to the ballot box and pass an initiative to better fund our schools and early education opportunities.

At the end of the day, we must have the political will to modernize it to fit our modern needs. I’m glad that bipartisan discussions to do so are being considered in the Capitol, such as Senator Larry Crowder and Representative Dan Thurlow’s efforts to alter TABOR’s formula to provide the state more revenue and increased flexibility to invest in schools and infrastructure. As governor, I would be eager to begin expanding the amount of interests in this conversation to ensure that we have a bipartisan and agreed-upon framework to update TABOR.
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Walker Stapleton (R)
First off, we need to address PERA and health care spending, which are crowding out education spending in the state. If we can reign in the spending in these areas it will free up more money for our schools.

However, getting dollars into the school is just half the battle. Once they get there we need to make sure more of the money is going towards resources, retaining and rewarding amazing teachers, and providing students access to tools they need to succeed, not to administrative costs and backfilling the pension liability.
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Early Childhood Education

Do you think Colorado should be doing more, doing less, or doing the same amount to ensure affordable opportunities for children to access quality early care and education programs? If you think we should be doing more, how would you increase access to quality early care and education programs in Colorado?

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jared-polis

Jared Polis (D)
Early childhood education is one of the best predictors of future academic and economic success and our state absolutely needs to be doing more to give kids a high-quality education throughout their lives.

I am the only candidate running for governor on a pledge to bring universal full-day kindergarten and preschool to Colorado families within two years of my election. My plan will allow any parent to send their child to a preschool or kindergarten of their choice at no additional cost to them.

We will accomplish this by building a winning coalition of Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and advocates for our schools, to write and pass a ballot measure that will boost funding for early education opportunities. I’ve done this before when I helped lead the coalition to pass Amendment 23, numerous local bonds and mill levies, and I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves to do it again as governor.
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Walker Stapleton (R)
I would like to see more progress made in early childhood education in the state of Colorado. 

We need to increase access by making our dollars go further for state preschool programs through increasing local community engagement. Preschool plays an instrumental role in getting students school-ready and closing the performance gap. But ultimately, it all starts in the home. I think we need to work with our partnerships in the non-profit and private sector around the state, to empower new parents with the tools they need to help their children succeed. This starts with an emphasis on engaging children, reading in the home, and promoting family values.

Yes, I would like to increase access to these programs, but think that it is crucial that the directives be led on the community and local level. It is paramount that these early childhood education initiatives are coupled with support for new parents starting in the home.
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TEACHERS AND LEADERS

Please rank order your top 3 strategies for recruiting and retaining excellent educators in Colorado.

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Jared Polis (D)
  1. Allow teachers in hard-to-fill positions like science and math or in rural areas to be paid more
  1. Develop “grow your own” strategies where districts develop local talent
  2. Offer loan forgiveness to all educators
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Walker Stapleton (R)

  1. Relax teacher credential rules – Make sure we have qualified teachers in the classroom but do not have them meet arbitrary requirements that do not translate into teaching in the classroom

  1. Collect better data on the state level regarding current and future hiring needs
  2. Hold educator preparation programs accountable for producing effective teachers

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RETIREMENT SECURITY

What are your top three recommendations for improving Colorado’s public retirement system (PERA) in a way that helps to retain and recruit the highest quality public workforce?

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jared-polis

Jared Polis (D)

  1. Protecting the defined benefit system

  1. Ensuring that long-term sustainability of PERA is a shared sacrifice among beneficiaries
  2. Putting policies into place that automatically adjust contribution rates to ensure long-term sustainability and reduce the need for legislative action

Over 500,000 Coloradans rely on the benefits they earned over a lifetime of service to the public. Communities all over Colorado benefit from the retirement income provided to retirees in our state through the PERA system. In fact, $3.8 billion in benefits were paid to retirees living in Colorado in 2016 alone.

I believe that a pension is more than a fund, but it’s a promise. We’ve made a promise to thousands of public servants that if they forego Social Security and enter into PERA, they will be afforded a dignified retirement in exchange for their service to their community. As governor, I intend for Colorado to keep that promise.

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Walker Stapleton (R)
As Colorado’s Treasurer, reforming PERA has been one of my top priorities.

Frankly, we can no longer ignore this problem, as it endangers the financial future of our children as well as the well being of our state employees. PERA is draining money that should be going directly into the classroom but instead is being used to backfill the pension liability. Fixing this system so that funding increases translate into immediate raises for teachers, lowering student-teacher ratios and increasing technology in the classroom will be critical to attracting and retaining teachers.

I believe fixing PERA is contingent upon four main principles:

  1. Taxpayers have done their part already, no more bailouts for PERA
  2. Provide real retirement options and choice for public employees.
  3. Retirement age needs to be moved to be more in line with federal retirement programs like Social Security.
  4. Restructure PERA’s corporate governance putting independent voices on the board that do not have a vested economic interest in maintain the status quo.
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This guide only features the candidates representing Colorado’s Democratic and Republican parties. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan network of business leaders, Colorado Succeeds and its partners in this effort do not endorse or oppose candidates.

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