EDUCATION – An adequately funded system of public education is one of the basic functions a state should provide. For too long Colorado has ranked in the bottom 10 states in K-12 funding, teacher pay, and the cost of higher education. Fortunately, in recent years the legislature has made historic new investments to create opportunity for students.
Our kids deserve better than this. Below are bills I have worked on to improve K-12 and higher education in Colorado.
Expanding Access to Free Community College (HB22-1002 & HB22-1390) – For over 10 years Colorado has had a program called ASCENT that enables qualifying high school seniors to take an additional or fifth year of high school to pursue concurrent enrollment courses at a local community college (like CCA). This allows students to complete a 2-year degree with no tuition cost, saving thousands of dollars. Historically, ASCENT has been capped at 500 students per year, fewer than the number of students the state’s own data shows would like to pursue ASCENT. I sponsored HB 1002 to eliminate the cap, making ASCENT eligible to any qualifying student. During the legislative process, HB 1002 was incorporated into the annual “School Finance Act,” HB22-1390, and became law that way. STATUS – signed into law.
Tax Fairness Act (HB20-1420) – The U.S. Congress recently has made changes to federal tax law that disproportionately benefit a very small fraction of taxpayers – the most affluent individuals and corporations. These federal law changes impact Colorado’s tax filings too, even though Colorado voters never approved them and the Colorado legislature never debated them. Due to COVID-19, the Colorado legislature had to cut over $3 billion from K-12 education, higher education, health care, transportation, small business support and more to meet our constitutional obligation to balance our state budget. To keep these budget cuts from going even deeper, I co-sponsored this bill to stop the impact of these federal tax loopholes on Colorado and instead increase our commitment to funding K-12 education and supporting working families via the Earned Income Tax Credit. STATUS: signed into law.
Funding For Full Day Kindergarten (HB19-1262) – I supported this bipartisan bill to provide state funding for full day kindergarten for any student, anywhere in the state, who wants to attend. STATUS: signed into law.
Budget Amendment for ATC Funding (HB18-1322) – I sponsored an amendment to the budget to increase funding to Area Technical Colleges (ATCs), including Pickens Tech in Aurora, by $1.2 million to help keep up with enrollment growth. Area Technical Colleges like Pickens offer valuable technical training that helps students of all ages compete for good- paying jobs and funding the ATCs to fulfilll their mission is a smart investment. STATUS: signed into law.
ASCENT Concurrent Enrollment Data (HB17-1294) – ASCENT is a program that allows high school students to take college courses during a “5th year” of high school, at no tuition cost to the student, making progress toward or even completing a 2-year degree. Aurora and Cherry Creek schools have more students taking advantage of ASCENT than most other districts in the state. Until recently, ASCENT students were not counted as high school graduates until the end of the 5th year. Thus, high-achieving ASCENT students used to be counted as “failing” to graduate high school on time in 4 years, creating a potential obstacle to utilization of ASCENT. I sponsored this bill to correct the problem by counting an ASCENT student as having graduated from high school when the high school graduation requirements are met. STATUS – signed into law.
Budget Amendment – ASCENT Funding (SB17-254) – I won passage of an amendment to Colorado’s 2017-18 budget to increase funding for the ASCENT concurrent enrollment program by about 10%. More students will now have the opportunity to take college courses through ASCENT than ever before. STATUS – signed into law.
Transparency for Private Occupational Schools (SB17-118) – With student indebtedness becoming a bigger problem, students need to be able to make informed decisions before committing to a degree or certificate program, particularly at expensive private schools. I sponsored this bill to require private occupational schools to provide information to prospective students on metrics like graduation and employment rates and debt levels. STATUS – killed on a party-line committee vote in GOP state senate.
I’ve also supported education legislation to: