ARVADA, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed three bipartisan bills into law that support foster youth seeking higher education opportunities, better enable Colorado students to train for high-demand jobs, and increase funding for special education.
SB22-008, championed by Senators Zenzinger and Priola as well as Representatives McLachlan and McKean, helps college-bound students who have been in foster care afford the cost of attending college by requiring higher education institutions to waive their undergraduate fees and tuition.
“Through no fault of their own, foster children typically face extraordinary challenges, and it’s our duty to help eliminate the ones that we can,” said Senator Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada. “Of all the assets we can provide for foster children, education is the one they can leverage most effectively. In the end, everyone benefits.”
“This law ensures that Colorado does right by the thousands of youth in our foster care system by covering the cost of their degrees,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “We are serious about setting every student up for success and that includes kids in our foster system. I’m incredibly proud of our bipartisan efforts to make it easier for foster youth to chase their dreams and attend a higher education institution in Colorado.”
To increase the likelihood of student enrollment in postsecondary education, the law also designates navigators at school districts and universities to serve as points-of-contact to help students choose programs, navigate the grant and tuition assistance programs, and submit applications.
Polis also signed SB22-192, championed by Senators Zenzinger and Simpson, and House Majority Leader Esgar and Representative Catlin, which streamlines educational pathways and better connects students with high-paying, in-demand jobs.
“Expanding stackable credential pathways will set Colorado’s students up for success and help workers upskill and reskill to land the high-paying jobs they are seeking,” Zenzinger said. “Colorado students – adults and youth alike – need efficient and effective pathways to gain the experience and training necessary to earn a degree and, ultimately, a good-paying job. This new law will accelerate our economic recovery and help businesses fill the critical gaps in our state’s workforce.”
“Sometimes life gets in the way of educational plans, so we’re revamping career pathways to be more efficient, flexible and attainable for Coloradans,” said House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “Our bipartisan stackable credentials law makes it easier for students seeking high-demand careers to have their on-the-job training and previous experience count toward degrees and professional credentials as they upskill and reskill. Whether you’ve taken a break from school or switched careers entirely, this law works to make sure Coloradans can enter and re-enter the workforce easier.”
SB22-192 was developed based on recommendations by the state’s Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force, which aims to make Colorado more affordable and create student success in today’s work environment.
Finally, Polis signed SB22-127, championed by Senators Zenzinger and Kirkmeyer as well as Representatives McCluskie and Larson, which increases funding for special education students by more than $80 million per year to help ensure that every Colorado student has the resources and support they need to thrive.
“Every Colorado student deserves a quality, public education, but the current level of state support for schools just isn’t getting the job done,” said Zenzinger. “We’ve been working to fix that, and this new law will help us get critical resources to the classrooms that need them most while making sure every student, regardless of ability, has what they need to succeed.”
“Education needs to be tailored to each and every student, which is why we allocated an additional $80 million for special education,” said Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillion. “Investing more in special education along with record investments in K-12 public schools through this year’s School Finance Act fills funding gaps in Colorado’s education system and better prepares all of our students for success.”
SB22-127 dramatically increases funding for more than 100,000 Colorado special education students, from about $220 million per year currently to more than $300 million per year moving forward. This increase brings down student-teacher ratios, decreases class sizes, and helps schools provide the tailored assistance and support special education students need to learn and receive the quality education they deserve.