Hickenlooper, Garcia unveil education plan, promise no new taxes

Democratic candidate for governor John Hickenlooper today unveiled his education plan.

Denver Mayor and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper, right, and his Lt. Gov. choice, Joe Garcia, discuss their education plan Monday. Photo by Scot Kersgaard
Accompanied by Lt Gov. candidate Joe Garcia, the president of CSU-Pueblo, Hickenlooper said the CSAP testing currently being used in Colorado isn’t working and needs to be replaced by something that teachers, students, parents and administrators can support.

He also said he will not propose any new taxes in support of education. “We will have to do more with less, and we can,” he said.

He said education is the key to job creation in Colorado and more importantly is the key for students with language barriers or from poor or broken families to achieve success in their lives.

Besides the fact that — according to Hickenlooper — many students, teachers and administrators don’t really believe in the CSAP, he said the test is rendered almost useless by the fact that it often takes up to four months for schools to get the results back. He said the SAT today is often taken on a computer and students get the results back within seconds of submitting the tests.

“In this day and age, we should be able to get results back much sooner, so that those results can be used by teachers to help students,” he said.

Hickenlooper stopped short of spelling out Garcia’s role in the administration if the Democratic ticket is elected, but both he and Garcia made it clear it was no accident that Hickenlooper selected an educator as his running mate.

“I’m here for one reason today and that’s because John Hickenlooper said education would be a priority in his administration. Education has to be a priority,” Garcia said.

He said education is of the utmost importance if Colorado is to turn its economy around. He noted that as president of CSU-Pueblo and, before that, of a community college, his student populations at both schools contained a lot of low income students and first-generation students, “students who knew that higher education was the key to opportunity for them, just as it was for me. There is nothing special about me, but I have had a lot of special opportunities precisely because I had access to high-quality education.” Garcia is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School.

Hickenlooper said there is a huge gap in Colorado between the achievement of white students with middle class backgrounds and those of minority backgrounds or with lower economic backgrounds. “If we can get kids to believe they can go to college, we have half the problem licked.” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper said that as he travels the state, jobs and the economy are people’s number one priority. Right after that, though, he said people are concerned about education.

Hickenlooper released a seven-page plan to the media before the event.

“Public education is the foundation upon which our state’s long-term economic prosperity and social stability depends. The governor’s role is to work in partnership with administrators, teachers, elected leaders, businesses, students and families to ensure that we deliver on the priorities we set for the state. Education needs to be promoted and supported as a lifetime endeavor,” the plan says.

Besides feel-good platitudes like the above, the plan also contains more than its share of disturbing facts. For instance:

• 36 percent of K-12 students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

• The high school graduation rate in Colorado is 74.6 percent, but only 50 percent for Hispanic students — the fourth worst gap in the country.

• 25 percent of the schools in Colorado account for 70 percent of all drop-outs.

• 29 percent of Colorado high school graduates need remedial work when they get to college. In some high schools it is 50 percent — and those are of the kids who go to college.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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