Gov. Bill Ritter’s vision Thursday to make Colorado a global competitor called for increased education funding and rigorous education standards.
Ritter, speaking to a group of high school journalism students at the State Capitol, said a focused curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math was part of his economic development strategy, which would center Colorado in the industries of bio and life sciences, aerospace, renewable energy and tourism.
Ritter said he believes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education (STEM) will provide a basis to compete in the global sphere.
“(Education) matters to us as a country,” Ritter said, during a small press conference with high school students. “We are competing globally.”
Ritter emphasized improving education for students, starting at the pre-school level and working up, so students can be grounded in knowledge for college and cultivate Colorado’s economic strategy.
“When you start behind, you stay behind,” he said.
Ritter said he wants to enstate full-day kindergarten and track learning proficiencies to better equip Colorado students for college and enable them to be innovators, creators and thinkers to solve issues facing the globe.
Students at the conference voiced their concerns with questions about plans to enhance education and increase its funding.
Zach Pagena, a senior at Lewis-Palmer High School, addressed low funding for higher education and tuition costs to Ritter.
Ritter recognized the decline in education since 9/11 when Colorado cut the higher education budget more than any other state, but said progress is being made.
He said for the first time in a long time, the higher education budget increase of 8 percent surpassed the increase in the prison budget, which was 6 percent this year.
“I like that he talked about the prisons and we are actually going to try to spend more money on education,” Pagena said, during a recess.
A few students at the conference said Ritter’s goals to reduce dropout rates, cut the achievement gap in half and double the number of post-secondary diplomas within the next 10 years had vague solutions attached.
Mickey Ellenwood, a student at Rocky Mountain High, said some of Ritter’s plans like high schools requiring four years of math did not address the quality of education.
“Is that going to mean taking another year with another sub-par teacher?” Ellenwood said. “And how are the teachers going to get that education?”
“We need to have a more established way to get there,” said Jill Petrie, a junior at Rocky Mountain High. “I think he might be a little ambitious. Start with quality versus quantity.”
Senior Report Kaeli West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org