Colorado Succeeds members and stakeholders gathered for an exclusive conversation on the 2024 Legislative Session earlier this month.

Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon (D), Representative Anthony Hartsook (R), Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D), and Colorado Succeeds President Scott Laband discussed key wins for students and our state.

The headline: 2024 was another great year for education and workforce policy in Colorado.

Four key takeaways from our time with these exceptional leaders:

1) Think nonpartisan and bipartisan to get the job done.

In reflecting on the monumental win of a student-first school finance rewrite, Sen. Zenzinger reflected on what was different this year than previous efforts. She reflected that a key strategy was first tasking a nonpartisan School Finance Task Force with making recommendations to revise the formula after failed partisan legislative committees. Then, making sure that there was a diversity of perspective in the key champions: “One of the best things about this bill is that it was bipartisan… [Senate cosponsor] Sen. Lundeen and I started by working through how to better support students who were at risk to better meet their needs.”

2) “The future is bright because our kids are bright.”

When asked to finish the sentence, “The future is bright in Colorado because…” our panelists offered a message of hope for Colorado learners and communities. As Rep. Bacon shared, “the future is bright because our kids are bright.” A strong reminder to prioritize students – they are bright and already possess potential, the system just needs to support them in reaching it.

3) The partnership of business and education leads to great outcomes for all.

At Colorado Succeeds, we know that the partnership between business, policymakers, and education will help unlock the full potential of Colorado’s students and create a brighter future for all learners and our communities.

Rep. Hartsook put it best: “If we don’t look at the needs from the business community, then we’re not only failing Colorado students, but we’re also failing businesses and our society… What meets the demands of industry also meets the needs of our students.”

4) Steadfast focus leads to meaningful change.

When asked about looking to the future of career-connected learning in Colorado, Representative Bacon also spoke about the long-term focus, from first looking to rural districts, like those in the Homegrown Talent Initiative, to then developing the 1215 Task Force, to now having a set of recommendations that will require long-term focus on ensuring all students have opportunities that lead to meaningful opportunities to support their communities, and access economic mobility. “Young people want to not only master reading and writing; they want to know their place in this world for leadership,” she noted.

In speaking about the Public School Finance Formula rewrite, Sen. Zenzinger similarly noted the long road it took to arrive at this moment. “Colorado Succeeds has been there [on this issue] from the very beginning,” she shared. If it wasn’t for organizations like Succeeds and many others working together over many years, this wouldn’t have happened. It was a long road to get here.”

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. Read more in our 2024 Legislative Recap.

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