Making Colorado’s Schools No. 1 Should be the Next Governor’s Priority

A recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report and McKinsey listed Colorado’s economy as the best in the nation. Yet our education system ranked 20th, driven down by poor high school graduation rates and students who are inadequately prepared for the post-secondary education needed to fill available jobs.

Today, close to three-quarters of Colorado jobs require some education beyond high school, and that number will continue to rise. Only Minnesota and Washington, D.C. have as high, or a higher proportion, of jobs requiring some level of post-secondary education.

There’s an obvious disconnect here. How long can Colorado’s economy continue to thrive if our education system is struggling? The current system was built for a past era, and it’s clear that transforming education and improving outcomes statewide should be a priority for the state’s next governor.

For this reason, a coalition of 20 Colorado business groups, which we are a part of, surveyed local employers and polled voters to determine which among the state’s education challenges seem the most pressing.

The findings from our survey and polling, detailed in this publication, show Coloradans care deeply about this. Education ranked as a top-tier issue for voters, trailing only economic concerns such as jobs and affordable housing.

As leaders of major Colorado companies, we were not surprised to see that other employers — more than three-quarters, in fact — said it has been difficult to hire people in Colorado with the right skills for open positions. What’s more, 86 percent said the state’s skills gap poses a threat to their business.

This piece originally appeared in the Denver Business Journal. Click here to read the entire op-ed.

Phil Kalin and Earl Wright

Phil is the CEO of Pinnacol Assurance
Earl is the Chairman of AMG National Trust Bank