State of the States
School Reform Measures Get Defense in Address
After expressing confidence in a steadily improving state economy, Gov. Bill Owens said this month that he would oppose any effort to weaken state school accountability policies, and he vowed not to retreat from education approaches such as school choice, charter schools, and home schooling.
“This accountability system works,” the Republican said during his Jan. 13 State of the State Address, arguing that Colorado has the best learning environment in the nation, with 114 schools rated “excellent” or “high” under its own accountability system since the 2001-02 school year. He also praised the state’s strong record of complying with a federal mandate to place “highly qualified” teachers in classrooms.
While calling those results “real progress,” Gov. Owens also said that public education is not out of the woods yet.
To help ease the ongoing fiscal battle over the state’s Amendment 23, which sets a guaranteed minimum spending level for education, as well as the state law known as TABOR, which requires that surplus state funds be returned to taxpayers, the governor proposed asking taxpayers for permission to keep some of the surpluses while maintaining the law’s spending caps. The money would be used to support a $1.7 billion bond issue to fund public works and higher education projects, he said.
“It’s become fashionable … to blame TABOR for every challenge Colorado faces,” Mr. Owens said. “That’s not fair. And, worse, it’s not accurate.”
Gov. Owens proposed instituting a program to help low-income families prepare children for college, as well as scholarships to help them pay tuition. In addition, he called for legislation to “open the books on the financial dealings” of universities.
Overall, the governor requested $3.6 billion in K-12 education funding, a 1.1 percent increase over last year.
Vol. 24, Issue 20, Page 24Published in Print: January 26, 2005, as Colorado