Cary Kennedy: Enriching education should be Colorado’s top priority

Cary Kennedy
Guest Commentary

For decades students in Glenwood Springs have been going to elementary school in an old building that was too small to fit the entire student body. The old school, originally built in 1921, had rain water damage, poor lighting and accessibility problems.

For nearly a century, Colorado’s rural schools, spread across farmlands and mountains, have deteriorated because small communities can’t raise the capital to renovate or replace them. While serving as Colorado’s State Treasurer, I saw students attending schools that were not fit to house them — schools with crumbling foundations, leaking roofs and old propane stoves for heat.

That is why, while serving as Colorado State Treasurer, I developed the Building Excellent Schools Today program (BEST) that has funded — and continues to help fund — the renovation and replacement of hundreds of dilapidated schools across Colorado. Thanks to BEST, and the generosity of local residents, students, parents, teachers and administrators recently celebrated the grand opening of a brand new, renovated Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

BEST has provided a billion dollars in improvements to over 400 school buildings in 135 school districts across Colorado, all without new state taxes.

Students in Glenwood Springs now have a state of the art, modern learning facility. The updated building support the school’s expeditionary learning model and provides the right space for practicing teamwork, planning service projects and completing schoolwork.

Students in Glenwood join students in Weldona, Sargent, Cortez, Sangre De Cristo, Silverton, Salida, De Beque and dozens of other communities who now have access to modern school facilities. And soon, students in Saguache, Del Norte and Deer Trail will all enjoy new, modern schools. I believe we have a moral responsibility to ensure every student growing up in our state can get a great education. With the help of BEST, we are on our way to giving every student in Colorado a modern school.

While we can all celebrate this progress, as a mom, I know a building isn’t enough. Colorado’s education system has grown sadly underfunded and inequitable.

I want Colorado to have the best public schools in the country. We need to support every student in our state so they develop the skills to compete for the jobs in Colorado’s growing economy. Providing an enriching education for every student is the most important thing we do and needs to be our state’s highest priority.

Cary Kennedy is the former Colorado State Treasurer and is a candidate for Governor.