Mike Johnston on Education



Major investment in public education

He sponsored the READ Act which provided $20 million to school districts for additional literacy support programs including full-day kindergarten. Mike fought for resources our schools needs through the Student Success Act, which allowed for the largest single investment in K-12 in state history and provided a financial transparency system so every parent and teacher could know exactly how their tax dollars are spent.
Source: 2018 Colorado Governor website MikeJohnstonForColorado.com , Sep 1, 2017

Make college more affordable

Johnston is a former state senator who represented northeast Denver from 2009 until last year. He advised Barack Obama on the education in his 2008 campaign, and has said he plans to focus on making college more affordable. He had a record-breaking fundraising period, with at least $625,000 for the first quarter of 2017. He's vowed not to accept money from political action committees (PACs).
Source: Colorado Times-Recorder on 2018 Colorado gubernatorial race , Apr 17, 2017

Keep up with innovation: 2 years of free college or training

How do we make sure Colorado is in a position to help drive the new economy and not be dragged behind the old one? What we've seen is that there's so much disruption coming to our world through globalization and automation and the changes in technology-- we're going to see up-and-coming people coming out of college and elsewhere who are going to experience 11 & 12 & 13 different careers over the course of their lifetime. We have to prepare a system that helps to train and re-train them over the course of their lifetimes, so if they're at 45 and their industry dies or contracts, they have the infrastructure and the skills to get prepared for the next emerging industry. That's why I introduced what I call the Lifetime Opportunity Promise, which is the opportunity for any Coloradan to have access, debt-free, to two years of either career training or post-secondary education as a way to get them the skills they need and the opportunity at the jobs they want in industries that are emerging.
Source: Westword interview on 2018 Colorado Gubernatorial race , Jan 25, 2017

National Guard service in exchange for state college tuition

Q: How will you pay for your debt-free college and training proposal?

A: It will be done in exchange for students offering meaningful service to the state, like a National Guard, where they would do 4 or 5 weekends a year. It could be fire mitigation, trail repair, flood prevention--things we need. And if there are instances of a crisis, that corps is available to be called up

Q: The idea of state service has been out there for a while. Why has it been so hard to put something like that into place?

A: Our plan is unique in that most other service proposals are all full-time service proposals. You'd be an AmeriCorps volunteer who's working 60 hours a week in a school, or you would be working for a WPA-style program 50 hours a week--full-time programs for full-time benefits, which makes them much more expensive and much more complicated to administer. But the idea of the National Guard version is, you can still have your day job, and when Colorado calls you, you get summoned up.

Source: Westword interview on 2018 Colorado Gubernatorial race , Jan 25, 2017

Teachers are the solution; tenure is the problem

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote a column about Mike's efforts to reform teacher accountability, including the landmark 2010 "Great Students and Teachers" Act, known as SB-191. Mike told Bruni that teachers are the solution, not the problem. But the current system doesn't enable as many of them as possible to rise to that role, he says. And a prime culprit is tenure, at least as it still exists in most states.

"It provides no incentive for someone to improve their practice," he said. "It provides no accountability to actual student outcomes. It's the classic driver of, 'I taught it, they didn't learn it, not my problem.' It has a decimating impact on morale among staff, because some people can work hard, some can do nothing, and it doesn't matter."

Source: 2017 CO Gubernatorial campaign website MikeJohnston.org , Jan 17, 2017

Harlem charter schools are a success

Mike said that traditional tenure laws restrict principals from building the team they need to ensure student success. Principals with control over that coax better outcomes from students, citing test scores of kids in Harlem who attend the Success Academy Charter Schools: "You saw that when you could hire for talent and release for talent, you could actually demonstrate amazing results in places where that was never thought possible. It's not the kids who are the problem! It's the system."
Source: 2017 CO Gubernatorial campaign website MikeJohnston.org , Jan 17, 2017

Weaken tenure protections; strengthen teacher evaluations

Johnston, whose state Senate term expired at the end of 2016, is best known as an eloquent speaker who championed education reform efforts and sponsored a contentious measure approved in 2010 to tie teacher evaluation to students' academic growth and weaken tenure protections.

The details of his promise to provide debt-free college and career training remains unclear. He declined to put a price tag on the plan or explain how to pay for it, maintaining that it would be near revenue-neutral.

Source: Denver Post on 2018 Colorado Gubernatorial race , Jan 17, 2017

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Michael Bennet
Steve Barlock
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Walker Stapleton
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Page last updated: May 03, 2020