Pamela and her son Tristan in the Colorado state Capitol.

On April 21, the House Education Committee passed HB22-1376 Supportive Learning Environments for K-12 Students on a 6-3 vote. This bill makes several updates to Colorado’s policies and practices to improve school climate for students including increasing funding for the successful Expelled and At-Risk Student Services Grant, updating restraint and seclusion policies and ending practices that have been shown to harm students, requiring better data collection on disciplinary incidents and indicators of school climate and promoting best practices and proper training for school security staff. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Pamela, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

My name is Pamela Kaspar, I am a District 1 resident, a social work scholar, and a parent. I’m speaking in favor of House Bill 1376.   

With me today is my brilliant and talented son, Tristan, who is 11. Tristan had a rough start in his journey in public schools. We had just moved back to Colorado from Virginia, and in order for me to continue my education and save money, we were living with my parents. These types of life transitions can be challenging even for adults, but are especially more so for young children.   

Tristan lagged in his verbal communication skills; as you can imagine, it was incredibly frustrating for him as he tried to communicate with the world around him.  The school he attended showed little interest in offering any support for my son’s communication or behavioral needs, much less his social and emotional wellbeing.  As his mother, I knew that he was acting out because he was feeling scared, but his school saw an angry, problem child. He was repeatedly sent home from school, moved from one class to another and often in the principal’s office. I had to advocate on behalf of my son to have him see a counselor, it was never offered by the school. We qualified for assistance with a child therapist through the University of Denver, and my son began seeing them. This was all research and work that we had to do on our own with really no great idea of where to begin.   

The decision to change schools finally came when Tristan was once again sent home after crying while in class. I was at work that day, so my mother offered to pick him up. She insisted that his suspension and all prior suspensions be documented for her. As it turns out, the school had not been documenting when he was sent home and why. If that documentation had been provided for us, it would have painted a very grim picture of what the school’s discipline policy looked like, and perhaps have helped my son get the support he needed earlier. 

I’m sharing this experience with you all to illustrate the need for legislation like this. There is a need for a holistic approach to education, where the wellbeing and growth of teachers, caregivers, support staff and scholars are just as important as standardized test scores. Caregivers need resources to assist with addressing problematic behaviors, and as numerous studies have shown, the emotional quotient is as imperative as an intelligence quotient.  

Let’s support our kids like Tristian. Please vote yes on House Bill 1376.  

On March 31, the Senate Education Committee passed HB22-1295 Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program on a 5-2 vote. This bill takes several steps to address the existing challenges faced by families and providers, including strengthening Colorado’s early childhood infrastructure, developing a single application for families to access all publicly funded early education services, and better supporting our early childhood workforce. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Jesse, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

My name is Jesse Rula and I am a DPS employee for the Career and College Success Department. I am also the mother to 3 sons who were all fortunate enough to attend preschool for free. I know personally how important preschool is for children and their early childhood development. My middle child has a significant learning disability and struggles socially and emotionally.  

We were concerned about how he would adjust when entering school but were able to get him into the Head Start Program. We were fortunate enough to have him attend 2 yrs in a row and I am so grateful for that experience. My son was able to learn all the things he needed to enter kindergarten and be successful. Despite being very shy and struggling in social settings the staff took such a patient and caring approach to getting him used to the classroom and socializing with his peers.  

While I appreciate all the other academic things he learned such as his colors, numbers, and letters it was so much more than that. He learned how to navigate his classroom, how to advocate for himself, and how to socialize with his peers. It made the transition into kindergarten so much easier. So many families are in need of this kind of exposure and education for their children. So many could benefit from being able to access pre-k and start their child off on the right path.  

Being able to have a streamlined approach to accessing quality preschools that are affordable, is so crucial for all families with young children. This is especially true for families that are struggling just to put food on the table. Families who can’t afford to put their child in an expensive preschool and don’t have the time to try to navigate a complicated and confusing system to access preschool.  

All children have the right to start off life with the best chance possible. Research has shown how important preschool is for giving children a strong foundation in school and setting them up for future success. It had such a positive effect on my son and I want all families to experience that. Not only does it benefit these families but it benefits society as a whole. Getting children set up for success early on is one of the best ways to ensure future success, which benefits us all.  I respectfully ask for your ‘yes’ vote on House Bill 22-1295.

On March 31, the Senate Education Committee passed HB22-1295 Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program on a 5-2 vote. This bill takes several steps to address the existing challenges faced by families and providers, including strengthening Colorado’s early childhood infrastructure, developing a single application for families to access all publicly funded early education services, and better supporting our early childhood workforce. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Yaeel, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

English below

Mi nombre es Yaeel Duarte y soy Fellow de la organización de Stand for Children hace ya dos años. Estoy aqui para dar tetstimonio a favor de el projecto de ley HB 22 – 1295.  

La razón por la que estoy dando testimonio   a favor  de esta propuesta, es  porque quiero asegurarme que la comunidad a la que sirvo tenga la informacion necesaria para facilitar la educación temprana de sus hijos. 

 Considero que las leyes actuales  No han beneficiado al máximo a la comunidad de habla espanol por varios factores por supuesto el primero es el factor socioeconómico el cual impide en la mayoría de los casos el que los padres se involucren en la educación de sus hijos,  otro factor igual de importante es el del conocimiento, aunque existen ciertas estrategias para pasar el mensaje de inscripción en este caso No siempre son las más efectivas algo que erra el sistema escolar es deducir que el nivel de aprendizaje de los padres es el mismo en todas las culturas y No es así. 

Muchos de estos padres se rinden al momento de buscar opciones para sus hijos en etapa preescolar No solo por el idioma si no también por No tener suficiente apoyo tanto con informacion como con el proceso en general de dicha inscripción, que para variar el personal de las escuelas lo hacen más complicado de varias formas, y es  por eso es que existe ”La Sra que me cuida a mi hijo” porque prefirió pagar menos y prefirió ir con alguien  que le entiende y No le pide tooodos los requisitos que le pide el sistema actual. 

Las consecuencias de esto Son niños analfabetos bajos en vocabulario y por ende bajos en Lectura y Escritura, lo que conlleva a esta famosa brecha académica en los niños.  

El pasar esta Ley le ofrece  herramientas a los padres de hacer hijos independientes y les dará la seguridad de tener éxito académico en el futuro. 

My name is Yaeel Duarte and I am a returning Fellow of the Stand for Children. I am here today to give testimony in favor of House Bill 1295, universal pre-school. I am testifying in favor of this bill in part because I want to ensure the Spanish-speaking community weighs in on this proposed public policy, they deserve to have the information they need to facilitate their children’s early education. I believe that the current practices regarding pre-school  have led to opportunity disparities for Spanish-speaking families for several reasons. The most obvious factor is affordability, which disproportionately punishes single income/low-income families, particularly Latinas as statistically they are more likely to stay at home and save the money than almost any other demographic.  In most cases, these same low socio-economic families are also less likely to get involved in the education of their children. In addition to the obvious language barrier, there is also a lack of access and policy knowledge, although there are certain strategies to pass the registration message in this case. They are not always the most effective. Sometimes we also forget to see how parents have quite different education levels and can help their kids differently at home. They rely on pre-k to give those supports. 

Many of these parents give up when looking for options for their children in the preschool stage, not only because of the language, but also because they do not have enough support both with information and with the registration process. The consequences of this lack of academic access are children with low vocabulary and therefore struggle in Reading and Writing, leading to one of the most notable academic achievement gaps in Colorado schools. 

Passing this Law would help ensure early success for children and more academic options for parents, please vote yes on HB-1295.