2024 was another great year for education and workforce policy in Colorado. We are thankful for strong partnerships with policymakers, the Governor’s office, coalition organizations, and state agencies who helped pass landmark legislation that will transform Colorado’s education and training system to give more Coloradans a pathway to economic mobility.

More than 30 years after the last major rewrite of our school finance law and seven years of legislative efforts led to the passing of a student-centered school finance formula in HB24-1448.

Colorado Succeeds has had a long-standing focus on redesigning the formula around student need. The old formula was confusing and oriented around district needs, which created significant inequities, even for districts right next to each other. The new formula:

  • Fixes the order of operations to ensure student needs come before district needs so that all students with the same characteristics receive equal funding.
  • Adds more money for at-risk students (bringing the weight from .12 to .25) and English language learners (weight from .08 to .25).
  • Creates a new remoteness factor to better capture the unique needs of rural districts.
  • Adds nearly $500M into the formula overall to ensure that all students benefit.

This bill was truly a historic step. It passed the initial House vote by 54-10, the Senate by 28-7, and a final vote in the House of 55-7 – showing great bipartisan support but also that the issue did not fall entirely within party lines.

In December, the Secondary, Postsecondary, and Work-Based Learning Integration Task Force (1215 Task Force) released its recommendations for how the State can ensure all students graduate with a career-connected learning experience, meaningful college credit, and/or an industry-recognized credential.

The report had 13 recommendations that should be scaffolded, focusing on program modernization and better data so the State can direct investments first. Working with the Governor’s office, the Colorado Department of Education, and coalition partners, we passed HB24-1364, the first of the legislative efforts to address the Task Force’s recommendations. This bill directly addresses two of the recommendations while simultaneously laying the groundwork for future action by:

  • Creating a cost study to understand the actual costs and opportunities for savings in our career-connected learning programs by orienting around outcomes rather than programs. The cost study is scheduled to be complete by November and will allow the State to put forward a proposal to equitably expand these opportunities in a fiscally responsible way. Over the coming months, we will work with district partners to ensure their financial data and insights are included in the cost study.
  • Establishing a state longitudinal data system (SLDS). Despite efforts throughout Colorado’s legislative history to achieve the same outcome, the language in 1364 calls for a robust governing board, which we’ve learned by looking to other states will be critical to ensuring our State has a successful implementation of an SLDS. Through partnership with our newly launched Better Data for Better Decisions coalition, we will play a critical role in ensuring that the governing board moves forward with the speed and focus that the legislature intended.

The bill passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and laid a strong political foundation for the work ahead. Colorado Succeeds will continue to work with partners to prioritize and move forward with the recommendations from the 1215 Task Force.

Colorado Succeeds worked closely with the Education to Employment Alliance to inform and then endorse a slate of five bills that passed with strong bipartisan support through the legislature this year. Identifying and endorsing these bills, which aligned with the recent report recommendations, helped build and strengthen the connections across the Alliance.

  • The Alliance played a key role in adding a regional talent planning grant program into HB24-1365, which also expanded Opportunity Now. Over the summer, the Alliance expects to work together with government agencies to support regional business groups in hosting a series of summits designed to align regional talent development efforts. Those summits will lead to clear goals and plans that the Alliance will continue to track.
  • Additionally, the coalition supported two bills designed to make it easier to recognize the value of apprenticeships within our existing system, SB24-104 and SB24-143.
  • In the final days of the session, we also provided additional support to HB24-1439, which creates tax credits for employers who offer apprenticeships and provides support for intermediaries who offer technical assistance for creating apprenticeships. This bill faced an uphill battle as legislators experienced some fatigue with tax credits.
  • Finally, the coalition endorsed HB24-1364 (described above) as an essential step toward identifying programs that work to improve Colorado’s workforce pipeline.

The Alliance will now collaborate to ensure the regional talent development summits are well-executed, to get the word out about various tax credits for business to engage, and to integrate the pathways work into our existing projects.

Twenty years after Colorado created its original transfer structure, student stories and data show that it is not working. In 2023, Colorado Succeeds worked with the Colorado Community College System to submit an audit request to study this system. The audit committee accepted this request, but due to a data breach at the Department of Higher Education, they cannot start working on it until late 2025. Thankfully, legislators realized this was a problem that could not wait.

Colorado Succeeds worked with the Colorado Department of Higher Education and other education institutions and partners to help shape SB24-164, Higher Education Transparency. The bill had strong bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor. It expands the representation on the State’s general education taskforce that oversees transfer policy to include more voices for two-year colleges and access institutions. It then requires that group to identify and address courses, which creates the biggest challenges for students trying to transfer credits. It also creates new protections for students by ensuring that they will hear about whether their credits will transfer within 30 days of enrolling in college, and it will provide students with a process to appeal credit transfer decisions.

This is an essential first step in addressing a critical challenge for learners, but there is still a lot to do. Colorado Succeeds will work closely with partners to ensure the policy is implemented in a way that addresses the needs of learners and the many employers who are supporting learners in their education. Read more about the challenges students face with transfer in Colorado and the solution this bill will provide in Chalkbeat Colorado and Inside Higher Ed.