GUEST COLUMN: Bridging the ‘opportunity gap’ for Colorado children is non-partisan | Opinion


As students, educators and parents focus on picking up the pieces of two difficult school years interrupted by a pandemic, the challenge of doing well for our children – the challenge of giving all of our children the education they have. need to be successful in life – looms even bigger.

We have spent years of our professional and personal lives working in education and can attest that the pandemic has brought to light many of the issues that came before it. Among these, there has been renewed attention to the fact that Colorado students have varied access to extracurricular learning options – the ‘opportunity gap’ – and how this directly correlates to disparate educational outcomes – the “achievement deficit” – based largely on race, income and other factors.

As a Democrat, Republican, and unaffiliated voter, we agree that addressing the root causes of the opportunity gap is non-partisan – and something Coloradians need to tackle together.

In November, voters will have a significant chance to do so by voting for an innovative bipartisan ballot measure that provides student financial assistance for tutoring, before and after school education, and a range of other educational options. chosen by parents who will help thousands of students catch up and move on.

We are proud to be part of a massive coalition of educators and leaders from across the political spectrum in Colorado who have come together to support Initiative 25, which is substantially funding financial assistance for tutoring with a modest increase in tutoring. recreational marijuana sales tax.

The financial aid program, known as LEAP (or Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress), would allow families to choose from a variety of approved extracurricular learning providers, including tutors in reading, math, science and education. in writing; additional services for students with special needs and vocational education and technical training programs.

In recent national tests, only four in 10 fourth-graders were proficient readers, and only two of 10 low-income students scored higher or higher. More than half of Colorado’s third through eighth graders do not meet grade-level expectations in reading, writing, or math on state tests. It has long been a struggle for Colorado.

The pandemic and the resulting school closures only compounded the challenge.

Developed by education experts from across the state, LEAP will help our students and their families, wherever they live, meet their learning needs. If passed, it will provide fairness and flexibility for K-12 students in Colorado so they can hone their skills and add new ones.

Under LEAP, families would be entitled to annual financial assistance of $ 1,500 per student for out-of-school education, with priority given to those whose family income is at or near the federal poverty line. The money could be used for a variety of opportunities, including tutoring for reading, math and science, as well as support for students with special needs and enrichment activities. It couldn’t be used for tuition, vouchers, or teaching in school.

Former Republican Gov. Bill Owens and former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, both of whom support the measure, put it well: “The need to close the opportunity gap transcends politics, geography, socio-economy and the breed, and deserves your support. The LEAP program is our opportunity to improve Colorado.

The LEAP program would be funded by an increase in the sales tax on recreational marijuana and revenues from extractive, agricultural or renewable energy developments on state lands.

Can the marijuana industry, with booming growth and profits, afford to pay a modest new tax to ensure our children receive essential tutoring services? Absoutely. This election measure will help the industry deliver on the campaign promise it made many years ago to fund our children’s education.

In the wake of the pandemic, closing the gap has become particularly urgent. We must act now to take the first step because the future of so many of our young people is at stake.

This is why leaders from all walks of life – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – are mobilizing to support the increase in the tax on marijuana to fund financial assistance for private tuition. We invite you to join us.

Rico Munn is Superintendent of Aurora Public Schools and a former member of the State Board of Education. Dan Ritchie is Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Denver. Kevin Priola is a state senator from Adams County. Learn more about Initiative 25 on


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