State panel ponders education reform | AspenTimes.com

State panel ponders education reform

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

FORT MORGAN, Colo. ” Teachers need higher pay, students need preschools and the state needs to track struggling students to keep them from dropping out, members of an education reform panel said Friday.

The panel was convened by Gov. Bill Ritter, who told members to find ways to make it easier for students to get from preschool to graduate school, and to get the courses they need.

The panel met at Morgan Community College to review possible recommendations. Members are expected to vote on the proposals on Nov. 27.

Former state GOP chief Bruce Benson, co-chairman of the panel, said the state needs to pay teachers more so schools can compete with the private sector to attract experienced and well-trained people.

“We want the teachers to be held in high esteem, like doctors,” Benson said.

The panel is recommending that the state put $10 million into a fund that would allow districts to attract, retain and support high quality educators.

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Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, the panel’s co-chairwoman, said she wants the state to focus first on preschool through third grade, where she believes schools can have the most immediate impact with the least cost.

“We’re really taking a look at what we felt was low-hanging fruit. There is a lot of evidence this works well,” she said.

Panel members estimated it would cost about $27 million to expand Colorado preschool programs to accommodate 8,000 at-risk 3- and 4-year-old children who are eligible but cannot get in for lack of space. About 16,000 attend now.

The panel estimated cost of making kindergarten available to every child in the state at $230 million.

Panel members said the state should set up a database to track students with problems to reduce the state dropout rate, but educators said that would be difficult because many students and parents don’t want the state to have personal information that could follow them through life.

“We get parents who are illegal immigrants who don’t want the school to know,” said Adele Bravo, a teacher in Boulder County schools. “I’ve got students who don’t want the school to know their dad is in prison.”

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