Re:Vision 2025 A View to the Future of Education
Sunday, February 23, 2020
February 20, 2020
In this month’s letter, I want to sketch out a vision for the future of Colorado education in advance of our annual state conference March 11-13, 2020. Before doing that, I want to briefly describe why change is such a necessity.
Many people come to our great state for one simple reason. We value freedom. The freedom to be self-reliant, to live as we choose. The freedom to enjoy the outdoors as we want – to hike, camp, ski, snowboard, fish, hunt, mountain bike, or just go to the Broncos game. The freedom to seek the best opportunities we can find in a thriving economy with abundant career paths and lots of upward mobility. The freedom to pursue the best education and quality of life possible for our children.
Frequently, my experience is that transplants to Colorado seek freedom from the family expectations, social norms, cultural tensions, and symptoms of decline that more traditional states can have. People come in search of the freedom to be part of a dynamic society that is actively defining what it means to live as individuals and families forming vibrant new relationships and communities.
Over the past three decades, Colorado’s ethic of freedom and opportunity has attracted a more diverse population than ever before. In just 20 years, from 1998 to 2018, our statewide school-age population grew by 32 percent and transitioned from 27 to 48 percent students of color. Towns, cities and urban neighborhoods statewide saw influxes of families from dozens of nations abroad. Colorado and other western states are experiencing large-scale relocation from other regions of America.
Many families with school-age children move to Colorado with limited resources – limited support networks, less formal education, single parent or non-traditional families without relatives nearby. Like all Coloradans, these families have big dreams of what’s possible, and they are very willing to work hard to achieve the Colorado dream, but they need supports to get there.
The need among children and families isn’t limited to big cities. This spring, the League will release a special report on the growing concentrations of need across districts and schools in every region of the state. The report will reveal hotspots of need and opportunity – which spring to the surface when we examine indicators of quality, equity and choice – where there is an urgent imperative to do better. These are the red flags signaling that children and youth deserve a better quality of education. We must not ignore the reality that, without decisive action, thousands and thousands of children and youth are being put at risk. These students, who will define Colorado’s future, cannot be served without new approaches to empowering educators, serving communities, resourcing schools, and meeting unique learner needs.
WHERE TO GO…
To pave the way for the future prosperity that all Coloradans deserve – and build on the ethic of freedom that is so fundamental to our state – we must remake public education for the 21st Century. In this new conception, we need to build on our knowledge that every child has different personality traits, talents, gifts, predispositions, cultural identities, learner needs, and developmental curves. Thus, we can assume that every parent deserves ready access to many high-quality options for each of their children.
In this dynamic view of public education, we can assume that different families want and need different things from our schools – language offerings, instructional modalities, behavioral practices, cultural experiences, reward systems, school days, extended-day offerings, calendar years. It isn’t practical for many parents to commute an hour to get to the right school for their child; they should have several quality options within 10-20 minutes in any direction with realistic daily transportation support.
If Colorado doesn’t transform public education, we will give rise to the same gaping socioeconomic disparities between haves and have-nots that dozens of older cities and states all across the U.S. are grappling with. Frankly, that is the trajectory we are on right now.
To enable Colorado to flourish, the League is putting the pieces in place to launch a statewide campaign, which will guide our work from 2020 through 2025. This campaign will be announced at our state conference March 13, 2020 at the Member Forum at 9:15 a.m. If you can’t make that, please see our website home page starting March 16, 2020. This campaign isn’t about what the League does in isolation, however. It is about locking arms with partners across ideological lines who share a vision for Colorado’s future, building a diverse coalition with broad resources, and accomplishing ambitious goals for all children and youth by collaborating to multiply our impact.
This isn’t a PR campaign. It isn’t a legislative agenda. It is focusing the work of all educators, our members, our partners, funders, and collaborators to create the conditions in which every child in the state can get the equitable start that she or he deserves in vibrant, quality schools. While details of our campaign will be announced at the conference, I can tell you today that we are excited about the prospect of building a bright future for every child through our advocacy, communications, outreach, support of existing public charter schools, development of new schools, and shaping of a coalition to bridge need and opportunity across a wider field than we ever have before.
As Coloradans and Americans, we are called to build a bright future for our children, a future that ensures freedom, choice, and equity for all who come to our state. Every one of you reading this letter is needed to build that future, which starts with recognizing the need, then empowering all educators to lead and create access to great public schools for every learner in every community. That is where the League is going — we hope you will join us.
Benjamin J. Lindquist