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Michael Johnston’s Best-Ever Education Speech Inspires Funding Reform, Too

In a recent column for Forbes magazine, communications expert Nick Morgan gave Colorado some great kudos with his recognition of “The Best Speech About Education–Ever.” He was praising this great speech our state senator Michael Johnston made last month in Connecticut about “what’s possible and what’s next.”

Watch the speech, and you’ll see why Johnston’s passion, knowledge and experience make him the leading voice on education in the Colorado state legislature. Sometimes we see eye to eye, and sometimes not.

But his influence in several reform debates is difficult to dispute — whether it has been carrying the SB 191 teacher evaluation overhaul, defending Colorado’s embrace of Common Core standards, or even agreeing to sign on as sponsor of a parent trigger bill not popular within his own party.

Representing an overwhelmingly Democratic district, his re-election this week into the state senate was never in doubt. What lies before him is his latest project, trying to promote a “grand bargain” in school finance reform.

While the scope of his project is admirable, the push to raise taxes is something I can’t get on board with. Nevertheless, my Education Policy Center friends are glad to have Senator Johnston on an important panel event they are co-sponsoring, titled “Financing Student Success: Imagining a Student-Centered Formula”. Retiring senator Keith King, the League of Charter Schools’ Vinny Badolato, and the Independence Institute’s Ben DeGrow are fellow panelists for the December 6 event.

Because I definitely agree with Senator Johnston’s diagnosis of K-12 education offered at the end of his Connecticut speech to a Teach for America crowd:

Yes, the truth is we have a policy system in almost every state in this country that is deeply broken, and that serves an old set of interests and a wrong set of values.

And I definitely agree there is hope to fix it. One of the things Colorado needs to do is recreate a school funding system that attaches funds directly to students, funds that will follow them to the school and course level.

Can we get there? It will take a lot of work, but now is not the time to give up.