Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who contributed to an overhaul of Denver Public Schools, announced Monday that he’s joining the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field.
As mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011, Hickenlooper helped start the Denver Scholarship Foundation, which provides grants to needy high school students in the Mile High City. He also encouraged now-Sen. Michael Bennet, his chief of staff at the time, to take over Denver schools. Bennet worked to close struggling schools, expand charters, and enact performance pay for teachers who moved student test scores. (That performance pay program later became a sticking point in the Denver teacher strike).
As governor in 2015, Hickenlooper signed a bill affirming families’ rights to opt out of standardized testing, but said he would not eliminate testing in 9th grade.
And in 2011, in his first year as governor, he proposed a $322 million cut to school funding. “There’s nothing I’ve ever grappled with as long and hard as that,” Hickenlooper said at the time, according to Chalkbeat. He also tried to enact tax increases to benefit schools, but voters rejected the move. And as governor, he pushed to improve access to workforce education, including internships and certificate programs.
Hickenlooper responded to the 2012 massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., which left 12 dead, by calling for new gun restrictions. And in 2018 he told NPR, “If you were trying to harm this country, what better thing could you do than to create a context where kids were too scared to go to school, or, when they got to school, they were too scared to learn?”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss ways to stabilize health insurance markets, during a 2017 hearing in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP-File)