I have been blessed to live the American dream, a small-town Colorado kid who built the country’s largest pet care franchise, Camp Bow Wow.
I’ve loved every minute of being an entrepreneur, building businesses, creating thousands of jobs, and giving back. But before dreams came true for me, there was love, loss, tragedy, hard work, and more hard work. And along with opportunity came the blessing of being born to parents who sacrificed everything to get me a good education. You see, education is the pathway to the American Dream.
This isn’t just my story, though; it can be every child’s story when parents and a community stand together for their success. The education my family fought to give me has been a constant through times when there weren’t many constants. One thing about education is that, once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.
Right now, our public schools leave millions of young people behind, especially those in poverty. This is not for lack of funding. Our government spending per student has more than doubled since 1970. Yet math and reading scores for 17-year-olds have not budged in four decades, and the achievement gap between poor and well-off students continues to grow.
Here in Colorado, more than two-thirds of our students cannot read or do math at grade level. We’ll spend about $8 billion here on K-12 education this school year, a more than 8% increase over last year and about 20% of our state’s $40 billion budget. And we’re still failing our kids.
Not to mention, in the last two years we’ve isolated, quarantined, and mandated our kids into a terrifying mental health crisis. Our state has the sixth highest teen suicide rate and the fifth highest teen drug addiction rate in the U.S. The Children’s Hospital Colorado has declared the first mental health crisis in the history of our state.
Instead of taking massive action to help our kids, our Governor declares “meat out” day and spends time on social media getting advice on commuting a murder sentence from Kim Kardashian.
I should also mention that he pushed my old school district to turn down a charter school I founded that had 700 students signed up, all the while claiming he believes in school choice. Okay, Election Year Jared, actions speak louder than words. And boy do we need action, our kids are in crisis!
Colorado’s children are depressed, suicidal, using drugs at unheard of levels, and failing to learn how to read, write, and do math. Instead of teaching the fundamentals, our schools are teaching them to feel guilty because of their skin color and that they can make life altering decisions about their sexual identity without telling their parents.
Our kids are learning how to use sex toys in fifth grade, how to “disrupt the nuclear family,” and what a sex change operation is in kindergarten.
I learned about this not from my school, but because my twins came home and told me about it. It is why we moved across town to find a school where parents DO have a say in our precious children’s learning. I want every parent to have the choice to do what I did. I want all families, regardless of their income, to have the choice to move to another public school, charter school, home school, micro school, or private school if their children are not learning what they need to learn.
I’m lucky. Education mattered to my parents. It mattered to my community. And obviously, it matters to the ten school districts here in Colorado that just flipped their school boards. But that’s not true for every child. So let parents help fix it. They can do that with access to funding and a voice in their children’s education.
We need transparency when it comes to education. Recent polling done by ReadyColorado shows 77% of Colorado parents believe they should have a say in what their kids are taught in school. 78% want schools to post their curriculum and teaching materials online for parents.
Those closest to the problem are always better able to solve it, and to do that, they need to be informed. It’s time to shift power over education back to parents who know their children best. Education should be a partnership with parents and teachers, not a series of mandates from administrators.
We must fund the student, not the system. Let the funding follow the families, so parents can protect the American dream for their children.