Late last week, nine candidates for Colorado governor came together to talk education, addressing an annual fall conference of school board members.
Now, we’re giving some of those audience members a chance to speak up.
Before the gubernatorial hopefuls took the stage, Chalkbeat recorded interviews with a half-dozen school board members who represent districts across the state. Our question to them: What are the big education questions you hope the next governor will take on?
Not surprisingly, funding challenges came up time and again.
One school board member asked for a more predictable budget. Another asked for schools to get their fair share of annual increases in new tax dollars. One went so far as to say the next governor would be a chicken if he or she didn’t take on reforming the state’s tax code.
We also heard a desire for leadership on solving teacher shortages, expanding vocational training and rethinking the state’s school accountability system.
Here are the six gubernatorial wishes we heard from Colorado’s school board members:
Reform TABOR to send more money to schools
Wendy Pottorff, Limon Public Schools
Since the Great Recession, Colorado schools have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And while the state legislature has tried to close its education funding shortfall, lawmakers haven’t been able to keep up. Getting in the way, Pottorff says, is the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
Change the conversation about public schools
Paul Reich, Telluride School District
Reich says public schools are under attack under the false premise that they’re failing — and that isn’t helping the state recruit bright young teachers. He said the next governor must change the conversation about schools to make teaching a more desirable profession.
Provide a clear budget forecast
Anne Guettler, Garfield School District
Approving a school district’s budget is one of the many responsibilities of a Colorado school board. That’s a tall challenge when the state’s budget is constantly in flux, Guettler says. She hopes the next governor can help provide a clearer economic forecast for schools.
Rethink school accountability to include students and parents
Greg Piotraschke, Brighton 27J
Colorado schools are subject to annual quality reviews by the state’s education department. And it’s time for the state to rethink what defines a high-quality school, Piotraschke said. He suggested the governor could help rethink everything from how the state uses standardized tests to how to incorporate parents and students into the review process.
Give schools more resources to train the state’s high-tech workforce
Nora Brown, Colorado Springs District 11
In light of Colorado growing tech sector, several gubernatorial candidates have come out in support of more technical training for Colorado students. But that costs money, Brown says. The Colorado Springs school board member said promising better job training for high school students without more resources is empty.
Remember there’s a difference between urban and rural schools
Mark Hillman, Burlington School District
Crafting statewide policy is an onerous task in Colorado, given the diversity of the state’s 178 school districts. Hillman said the next governor must remember that any legislation he or she signs will play out 178 different ways, so they must be careful to not put more undue pressure on the state’s smallest school districts.