Colorado’s legislature is back in session! As our schools and communities continue to navigate the complexities and challenges of schooling amidst the disruptions brought about by COVID-19, our elected representatives are seeking ways to positively impact the education ecosystem, on both long standing issues and new challenges driven by the pandemic.
Local, state, and national leaders trust PEBC to inform the development of sound education policy that profoundly impacts success for students and teachers alike. Below is a snapshot of some of the issues we are tracking this legislative session:
School Funding: A perennial issue at the legislature, we’re encouraged by early signals of a significant investment in paying down the Budget Stabilization Factor, a fiscal tool established over a decade ago that takes into account how factors such as TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment have led to the state underfunding the education system for over a decade. Additionally, we have been following the work of the Interim Committee on School Finance, a bipartisan, bicameral panel of legislators established to make improvements to the state’s School Finance Formula. We look forward to seeing how this committee approaches this issue, and know that the work continues for an additional year.
Educator Workforce: A persistent challenge only exasperated by the pandemic, Colorado faces numerous challenges in supporting a workforce that can ultimately meet the needs of students, districts, and communities – there are shortages in positions from teachers to bus drivers, school counselors, substitute teachers, and leaders. PEBC will continue to engage with legislators and other stakeholders on approaches to support a robust, diverse educator workforce to meet the needs of our communities.
With this in mind, we would be remiss if we failed to note that there are efforts underway to address these issues, including the work brought forward last year by SB21-185, a bill inspired by the work of a convening co-facilitated by PEBC and the Keystone Policy Center. In the coming months we’ll bring you an update on how the programs funded, or established by, that legislation are being rolled out to address this critical issue.
Early Childhood Education (ECE) (ECE) – A success story in Colorado is certainly the planning and efforts to establish a state, cabinet-level Department of Early Childhood to align efforts in the ECE space, including the state’s plans to establish universal preschool – 10 hours of preschool/week for all children beginning at age 4. We are closely monitoring these efforts and how the legislature will continue to move forward this session. PEBC praises the work of friends and colleagues in these efforts, most recently in the newly finalized recommendations for universal preschool from the Early Childhood Leadership Council, a set of recommendations that included contributions from PEBC staff and board members who participated in various advisory groups and committees related to this momentous effort.
Elevating Teacher Voice In Public Policy – PEBC believes that education policy is strengthened when teachers have a seat at the table, and consistently looks for openings to provide teachers the opportunity to share their perspectives with policymakers. This can look like inviting teachers to participate in stakeholder meetings, testify in support of legislation that positively impacts classrooms, or field-test innovative approaches to instruction in field pilots. Our first opportunity of 2022 will take place later this month – PEBC is proudly hosting a panel of teachers in a virtual conversation with Senator Michael Bennet and his staff, so that the teachers can share their perspectives on what teaching means to them in this moment, the challenges they are facing, and their thoughts on how he can carry their message forward in Washington DC this year.