What Can Senator Bennet Do for U.S. Education?

January 2011

Michael Bennet, who was the chief of Denver Public Schools before becoming one of Colorado's two U.S. senators, is winning some kudos for his positions on education, as he rolls up his sleeves to tackle the issue at the federal level. Time has dubbed the Democrat one of the top education activists in the nation, citing his credibility with moderates in both parties and close relationship with President Barack Obama. "If the federal No Child Left Behind Act is modified this year, or if anything else of significance happens in Washington on education policy, this Colorado Democrat will be at the center of it," the magazine writes.

Indeed, Bennet's first few weeks back on the job will be spent visiting teachers and administrators in Colorado schools to discuss how to make things better, reports The Denver Post. Bennet is talking about improving competition between traditional and charter schools and rewarding teachers for their performance in the classroom. "There is no natural reason this should be a partisan discussion," Bennet said recently. "It does provide real opportunity for bipartisan work and between the Senate and the House." Obama is expected to say more about education during his January 25 State of the Union address, as the U.S. Department of Education plans to continue backing the No Child Left Behind Act, which could see some tweaks, such as rewarding schools for growth, in addition to high test scores.

Meanwhile, struggles with funding higher education in Colorado are expected to persist, with more than $1 billion in cuts on the table this year. State senator Bob Bacon, a Fort Collins Democrat, worries the cuts will hurt the state's competitiveness, since the business community relies on well-trained workers. "It is one of the lynchpins of our mutual prosperity, and we need to identify a dedicated funding stream so we don't fall further and further behind," he tells the Northern Colorado Business Report.