Every child deserves a high-quality school in their neighborhood. Education is the cornerstone of a just society and it is the fundamental building block for any community striving for greatness. It lifts families out of poverty; it keeps people out of jails and prisons; it helps strengthen our local economy and attract jobs. Education gives communities hope, inspires creativity and innovation and creates economic growth.
Colorado is home to approximately 83,000 public school students and 178 school districts. Our student population is amazingly diverse. We have students who are gifted and talented, students with disabilities, 12% of our students have dominant languages other than English. Success for all our students is not optional; it's an imperative.
Promoting Early Childhood Education
The data is clear: early childhood education is a key to lifelong success, particularly for at-risk and lower-income children. Today, the achievement gap between low income and non-low income students is almost 40 percentage points across all subjects. This is unacceptable. Without adequate funding, evaluation and accountability, we will set our children up to fail in later years.
Leslie’s Plan - We must explore creative and innovative ways to make early childhood education a reality, and a success, for all of our kids. My plan will:
finance and support early childhood education at adequate levels;
empower educators to detect learning deficiencies at an early age with new training and accountability.
Prioritizing K-12 Education
Early investment will only pay dividends if we continue to help our students thrive as they proceed through elementary, middle and high school. Colorado is 40th in overall state spending per student for K-12 education, taking resources out of our classrooms and away from our students. Most of the jobs of the future will require education beyond high school. We should prepare every student for the post-secondary education that fits their futures.
Leslie’s Plan - Investing in our classrooms and our teachers not only prepares our students for the jobs of tomorrow, but helps break the cycle of poverty and strengthens our economy. My plan will:
prioritize funding of K-12 education by not only closing the existing gap but also increasing funding that will weather the next economic downturn;
through accountability and assessment, set ambitious yet reachable goals for improving high school graduation rates;
support teachers both in and out of the classroom, ensuring they have the resources and training to teach with excellence.
Investing In Our Future Through Higher Education
Post-high school education is the surest way to the middle class and beyond. Our future quality of life is tied to Coloradans being employed and productive. And while college isn’t for everyone, too many are boxed out from contemplating a higher education because of limited financial resources.
Leslie’s Plan - Instead of burying students and their families under mountains of debt, we need to change our perspective to one of public investment in Colorado's future. My plan will:
increase and improve state funding for student financial aid, and help those students who need the most help first;
support community colleges, vocational schools, trade schools or other forms of education that award degrees or professional certifications;
properly evaluate per-pupil state funding to ensure equity when divvying state resources.
Ending the School to Prison Pipeline
For many Coloradans, their first encounter with the criminal justice system is in our schools. The overuse of harsh discipline such as suspensions, expulsions, police tickets and at-school arrests have harmed thousands of Colorado students, the vast majority of whom are African American, Latino, and Native American, as well as LGBTQ.
Leslie’s Plan - Instead of militarizing our schools, unfairly pushing students out of the classrooms and disrupting their families, we need to rethink the system which results in students needlessly being pushed out of school or sent into the juvenile justice system by these misguided disciplinary practices. My plan will:
build on Colorado’s successful Smart School Discipline law, with improved data collection;
hold our school administrators, teachers, students and law enforcement accountable when interacting with students;
provide support and funding for training at state school districts so that there is a clear understanding of alternatives to police intervention and when such alternatives are appropriate.