In the upcoming 2022 legislative session, policymakers will determine how to allocate an unprecedented sum of federal and state stimulus funding. Already, Gov. Polis proposed a record $6.6B investment in education, a $381M increase over last year. Colorado Succeeds is proud to champion policies that promote equitable access to high-quality educational opportunities spanning from early childhood to post-secondary education. Our 2022 Policy Agenda outlines opportunities for Colorado legislators to ensure all students, regardless of their demographic characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) or ZIP code, are on a path to succeed.
Colorado Succeeds strives to co-create and advocate for policies alongside students, families, community members, and business leaders that will have the largest positive impact on students who are historically the farthest from opportunity. Our 2022 Policy Agenda includes initiatives that help ensure:
1) All 3- and 4-year-olds, without differences based on demographics, have access to high quality preschool, so they enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Only ~35% of children who were eligible for preschool attended the Colorado Preschool Program throughout the 2019-20 school year. Of those students, 58.4% attended a highly-rated Colorado Shines program. The state’s commitment to a universal preschool program should dramatically increase these numbers.
- Colorado Succeeds will support legislation, aligned with our early childhood education business principles, to implement a universal preschool program, ensuring that children, families, and educators – the end-users of the system – are central in its design.
- Importantly, families should not be limited by artificial political boundaries such as county or school district lines or restricted by the number of “slots” a provider has available to accept under a specific program’s contract.
2) All K-12 students, without differences based on demographics, attend a high performing school that meets their learning needs and aspirations.
Colorado’s overall 2019-20 high school graduation rate was 81.9%, a slight increase from the previous year. However, this rate was only 77.4% among students who identify with a racial or ethnic minority group, and only 65.4% among students who qualified for free or reduced lunch. Moreover, the most recent data regarding School Accreditation Ratings revealed that, pre-COVID, almost a third of Colorado’s K-12 education institutions were on improvement plans. As such, Colorado Succeeds urges legislators to:
- Ensure high-quality assessments and accountability – Coming out of COVID, funding should be allocated to ensure a balance is struck between understanding learning loss, targeting state resources where they are needed, and providing information to families about school quality.
- Protect school choice and innovation – Ensure charter and innovation schools are held to a high standard without encroaching on flexibility that encourages innovation. Support equitable funding for charter schools authorized by CSI and protect the $10 million set aside in the Governor’s budget for CSI schools.
- Support transportation solutions – In the face of a bus driver shortage, authorize an innovation fund that supports school districts in ways to modernize transportation, allow more students to attend the school of their choice, and access college and career-connected learning.
3) All students attain a postsecondary credential, without differences based on demographics, that is aligned to their interests and workforce demands.
Among Colorado’s 2019 high school graduates, only 57.6% either enrolled in postsecondary education the fall after graduation or graduated with a postsecondary credential. If Colorado is going to increase equitable access to, and attainment of, postsecondary credentials the following policy initiatives must be considered and acted upon:
- Providing incentives to employers to help address barriers to entry into robust career connected learning;
- Reducing wasted time, dead-ends, and inefficiencies in education and training systems, leading to higher ROI for students, and smoother pathways for learners aligned with good jobs;
- Supporting pathways policies that would facilitate state-wide pathways that are based on industry certificates/credentials, and helpful in further linking our higher education system to industry demands.;
- Supporting data systems that connect K-12, higher education, and workforce outcomes; and,
- Removing the state’s outdated community college service areas for concurrent enrollment.
Colorado Succeeds encourages your partnership and advocacy to help ensure the above student-centered, equity-focused policies are at the forefront of the 2022 legislative session. Collectively, we believe that by 2030, our efforts will lead to more Colorado students graduating with a high school diploma, a postsecondary credential, and a work-based learning experience. Please contact our team to learn how you can get involved.
Kelsey Corallo, Colorado Succeeds Policy Fellow
Kelly Caufield, Colorado Succeeds
Lance Hostetter, Colorado Succeeds