Governor Polis and the State of Education in Colorado

A debate took place September 28, 2022, in Pueblo, Colorado, between Governor Jared Polis and his challenger in the upcoming election, University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl.

Right away Polis accused Ganahl of selecting a lieutenant governor candidate who is “an election denier.” He repeated that attack in his closing remarks.  One wondered, is that all he’s got?

Ganahl defended her running mate, Danny Moore, a Navy veteran and Coloradoan of substance, by saying that Moore has expressed respect for President Biden and then she focused on more serious issues.  One of them was how 60 percent of Colorado students statewide cannot read, write, or do math at grade level. 

Polis has been pointing out that he managed to get all-day kindergarten in Colorado now that he is running for reelection.  Is Ganahl correct on how students above kindergarten doing in Colorado with Polis in office?

Online newsletter Chalkbeat Colorado agreed with Ganahl to some extent in an article analyzing how students are faring now compared with how they fared before the pandemic. According to authors Erica Meltzer and Melanie Asmar, “Colorado third graders did almost as well on standardized tests this past spring as third graders did before the pandemic, an encouraging sign after three disrupted school years. 

“But older students in most grades and subjects did worse, even as test scores rebounded from very low levels in 2021. And the majority of Colorado students didn’t meet grade-level expectations on the tests, known as Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS, just as they didn’t before COVID.”

Breaking down the data (analyzed by Thomas Wilburn) Chalkbeat reported, “Nearly 41% of Colorado third graders met or exceeded grade-level expectations in literacy, almost as high as the 41.3% who did so in 2019.”

That’s 59% of third graders are not meeting or exceeding literacy expectations for their grade level.

That article stated that older students did worse: Only 25 percent of seventh graders met or exceeded benchmarks in math and only 33 percent of eighth graders could do math at grade level while 60 percent of ninth graders could not do math at grade level, and literacy scores for older students were lower in most grades.  “Only 40% of ninth graders met or exceeded expectations in math, compared with almost 50% in 2019, a drop of 8.8 percentage points.”

As for differences between races: “Wide gaps remain between Black and Hispanic students and those from low-income households, on one hand, and their better-off white and Asian peers on the other. Where test score gaps narrowed, it was generally because students who historically performed better instead performed worse.

“That is not how we want to see the gap decrease. We want to see both groups increasing in terms of achievement, with our historically lower-achieving group improving at a faster pace,” said Joyce Zurkowski, Colorado’s chief assessment officer.”

CBS News Colorado attempted to give the report a positive spin. But school-board member Debora Scheffel (R) Board spoke the truth plainly: “It strikes me as we look big picture [sic] at the data, we’re failing more than 50 percent of the kids pre-pandemic and then pandemic made it worse.”

While Polis has done a couple of good things for Colorado education (proclaiming Colorado School Choice Week and urging schools to stay open during the pandemic), talk is not enough. Colorado needs new leadership to elevate education in the state. We can start with Heidi Ganahl as governor and Danny Moore as lieutenant governor. 

Voters can also elect Republican Dan Maloit to the state school board.  He actually did something to keep schools open.  “Dan organized several groups in the fall of 2020 around metro-Denver and the Front Range, leading to a reopening of schools for full-time, in-person learning. Dan founded Colorado’s Moms and Dads in the spring of 2021 to organize support for kid-focused parent candidates for school board across Colorado. Colorado’s Moms and Dads espoused Dan’s vision of a high-caliber, academic focused, non-dogmatic education for all children in Colorado.”

There’s one more issue to consider when it comes to Polis and education, one that’s very important to parents who got to see what their children were learning remotely during the pandemic.  It’s educational content.  

Critical race theory (CRT) was woven through curricula in Colorado, perhaps not by that name but evident nonetheless, along with LGBTQ indoctrination, including the idea that gender is a social construct. (At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year students in Jefferson County were required to state their pronouns first thing.) Books with sexual materials, even pornography, were being given to students, even very young students.

In a 2021 State of the State speech Polis addressed educational goals for the state, but said nothing about content.  But here’s a tell, our first openly gay governor criticized Governor Ron DeSantis when he signed legislation to protect the youngest students in his state from sexual content.

Governor Polis has not done an excellent job for Colorado students and parents.  Let’s make a change in November.

C.S. Boddie writes for Meadowlark Press, LLC

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay license

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