Growth and Inequality, Part One: Rebooting our Education System for a Changing Economy

Growth and Inequality, Part One: Rebooting our Education System for a Changing Economy

Denver, and most of Colorado, has undergone immense growth over the last decade. Our growing economy should drive new opportunities for all of us. Instead, Colorado has seen a huge rise in inequality, while finding good-paying jobs and making ends meet has gotten more and more difficult for people across our state

We need new ideas, and new approaches to fight inequality at the state and local level. That means developing policies that create opportunity for every Coloradan regardless of region, race, gender, or income.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be discussing policies to alleviate inequality in our growing economy. In today’s post, we’ll discuss holistic approaches to improving our education system.

Your voice is a critical part of this conversation, and we want to hear your thoughts on these important issues impacting our community. Since beginning my campaign over a year ago, I’ve talked to people around our district to formulate these policy suggestions.

Retooling our education system to address inequality and a changing economy

Colorado’s economic landscape is changing quickly. The emergence of the gig-economy, the ongoing replacement of human labor with automated technologies and artificial intelligence, and an increasingly diverse and sophisticated state economy mean we need new, holistic approaches that prepare our students to enter the workforce.

Public education shouldn’t just prepare students for college, or a specific career path. Instead, our education system needs to lay the foundation for students throughout their lives. To do so, Colorado should invest in expanded early childhood education programs, skill specific high school career training, and the option of apprenticeships so students can learn on the job and are prepared to enter the workforce at graduation.

Early Childhood Education

Numerous studies and reports confirm the effectiveness of early childhood education programs. Students that attend high quality preschool gives students a head start on their education, and prepares them to gain more from K-12 grade school. However, the cost of quality preschool has risen faster than median household income. When impoverished and even middle-class families can’t afford early childhood education, the gap between the wealthy and everyone else widens, as only wealthy children are positioned to excel in school.

Colorado’s lawmakers have already acknowledged the gap between early childhood education and future prosperity, and have made minor changes to the tax code to offset preschool expenses. However, we should go further by expanding the Colorado Preschool Program, which focuses on grade school readiness. Providing early childhood education for students from all backgrounds lets children enter our public system on equal footing, instead of putting less wealthy students behind from the outset.


Finally, Colorado needs to focus on apprenticeships and real-world experience for students. I was on the team that designed and launched CareerWise Colorado, an organization that brings together schools, students, and employers to create apprenticeships. I saw firsthand how valuable apprenticeships can be for teenagers preparing to assume the responsibilities of adulthood. Apprenticeships are good investments for students and employers, but they need government support to reach their potential. Without Colorado spearheading coordination and providing financial incentives, companies will be hesitant to recruit apprentices.

Career Academies

We should continue to support students throughout their time in the public education system. I believe one way that we can do that in Colorado is through high school Career Academies. Currently, Colorado has only one Career Academy, located at North Ridge High School in Greeley. Colorado’s government should partner with the National Academy Foundation to facilitate new, effective Career Academies across Colorado’s school system. Career Academies are a cost-effective way of preparing students for the workforce. Colorado should invest in Career Academies, so students have the opportunity to get a stable, well-paying job right out of high school.

These approaches would provide a starting point for retooling Colorado’s education system for a changing economy. However, this is just the start. Maintaining and improving our schools will require sufficient funding and practical, responsive policies. Next week, I’ll share my thoughts on how Colorado can support people throughout their careers by making work pay.

We Can and Must Do More to Prevent Gun Violence

Last week, at YouTube headquarters in San Francisco, a woman shot and wounded three individuals before taking her own life. This comes on the heels of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and educators were shot and killed. That tragedy, which made national headlines and started a survivor-led movement for increased gun safety, was just one of 17 school shootings in America so far in 2018.

Despite these repeated shootings and countless appeals to “thoughts and prayers,” many politicians continue to promote special interests, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), ahead of the safety of Americans.  However, Colorado’s state legislature can take action to update its gun laws in response to this pattern of gun violence. If I become a state senator, I will advocate that Colorado take concrete, straightforward, common-sense steps to limit gun violence. This includes:

Enforcing our background check laws:

I believe anyone that purchases a gun should have to undergo an extensive background check. In 2013, Colorado passed a law requiring background checks for all gun purchases. Somehow, that law hasn’t been widely enforced, and guns have continued to change hands without background checks.

The state of Washington faced a similar compliance problem with its background check law. However, gun safety advocates collaborated with law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to determine the best way to enforce the law, and now background checks for gun sales in Washington are widespread.

We need to increase our efforts to enforce existing background check laws here in Colorado. Those laws can resolve long-standing issues, including the gun show loophole. Our first step in strengthening gun safety must be to enforce existing laws in order to make sure guns don’t end up in the hands of known violent criminals.

Developing a better picture of the problem:

We should study the effects of gun violence in detail. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is positioned to fund studies on how best to prevent gun violence. Unfortunately, the federal government does not allow for the CDC to study gun violence.

I’ve always believed the best policies result from rigorous, evidence-based, scientific research. Therefore in the absence of federal funding, Colorado should lead the way on studying gun violence prevention. This research would allow Colorado to craft policies and strategies tailored to its communities, and could eventually provide a model for other states on effective, yet constitutional, gun-control measures.

Passing a Colorado red-flag law:

I support laws that allow family members, health-care providers, and law enforcement officials to seek court orders to temporarily remove guns from people who are at risk of harming themselves or others. Passing a ‘red flag law’ in Colorado would give our families and our communities a practical and accessible tool to reduce gun violence.

Banning assault rifles:

Colorado’s legislature should introduce and pass new legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons in Colorado. These weapons were designed for warfare, and their primary purpose is to kill other people. They have no place in our streets and schools.

The solution to gun violence in Colorado, and the United States, is not to ignore the constitution or ban all guns. Effective and practical gun control legislation should have no effect on responsible gun owners. My goals for gun control focus on restricting the most dangerous guns, and keeping guns away from the most dangerous people.

Enforcing Colorado’s existing background check laws, increasing funding for rigorous gun control research, and banning the sale of new assault weapons would provide a starting point for gun control in Colorado. These four effective, constitutional, and attainable goals aren’t the only initiatives that Colorado’s legislature should explore. For example, I would also explore the possibility of banning bump stocks and restricting gun possession for domestic abusers.

However, by focusing on these initiatives, we can bring about quick and effective changes to make our schools and streets safer.

32nd District State Senate Candidate Zach Neumann Raises More than $53,000 in Eight Weeks

DENVER, July 11, 2017 — Colorado State Senate Candidate Zach Neumann raised more than $53,000 from more than 300 donors in the first eight weeks of his campaign, an average of less than $200 per donation. Neumann, a Denver Democrat and a first- time candidate, recorded one of the strongest fundraising quarters for a state legislative candidate in recent history.

Neumann announced his candidacy in early May, over a third of the way through the fundraising quarter. As a late entrant into the fundraising cycle, he notably outperformed recent off-year, second quarter fundraising efforts, including those by Lois Court (SD 31 2015 Q2: $14,480.00), Steve Sherick (SD 31 2015 Q2: $37,491.46), and Rhonda Fields (SD 29 2015 Q2: $18,788.00).

Neumann is running to replace term-limited incumbent Irene Aguilar, and build on her record of strong, smart advocacy for the district.

“During the first two months of this campaign, I’ve gotten the chance to talk to my friends and neighbors about what we need to do to move Colorado forward,” said Neumann. “Our strong start gives us the chance to get the word out on the importance of protecting healthcare, building an inclusive economy, and preserving our environment here in Colorado.”

Neumann, who has participated in the ongoing ADAPT protests at Senator Cory Gardner’s Office, received praise from Hope Russell Moseley, an ADAPT member involved in the sit-in. “I met Zach for the first time while we were camped out on the floor of Senator Gardner’s waiting room, urging the Senator to vote no on Trumpcare. I believe there is a lot you can learn about a person’s character when you’ve spent hours protesting together. Colorado needs more leaders like Zach who are willing to show up and fight for healthcare.”

“We need new, progressive voices in the Democratic Party,” said Dana Miller, a Denver- based activist and early donor to Neumann’s campaign. “Zach brings much-needed energy and vision to an important race here in Denver. I was happy to see he has generated the excitement and financial support to immediately be a serious contender.”

Mark Gray, an early campaign supporter, and a former student of Neumann’s at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs echoed these sentiments. “I got really excited when I first learned Zach was thinking of running for the State Senate,” said Gray. “Having seen him at work in the classroom, I think he’d be a thoughtful and effective lawmaker.”


Zach Neumann is a Democrat running for the Colorado State Senate in District 32. He is a lecturer at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs and a social entrepreneur. He was on the team that designed and launched CareerWise Colorado, a statewide youth apprenticeship program. He also cofounded Tortuga AgTech, a Denver based startup that develops agricultural technologies. Previously, Neumann worked in community development in Africa and South Asia with the World Bank Group, served on multiple Democratic political campaigns, and spent time as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Neumann has a BA from the University of Texas, an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center.

DENVER HERALD – Festival brings food and all kinds of fun to neighborhood

It was summertime and the living was easy at the fourth annual Harvey Park Improvement Association Summer Festival – but attendees didn’t need the Denver Municipal Band, who played the “Summertime” jazz standard, to tell them that.

“We do the festival to strengthen our community,” said Xochitl Gaytan, president of Harvey Park Improvement Association. “And to bring other communities to Harvey Park.”

Hundreds came to the July 22 festival at Harvey Park, which offered four food trucks, a Mexican snacks cart, DJed music, live music by the Denver Municipal Band and more than 60 booths by businesses and community organizations. Kids enjoyed the face-painting, colorful beach balls, balloon animals and a game that involved catapulting rubber chickens at a target.

Denver City Councilmember Kevin Flynn took part in that one.

Flynn, a familiar face in Harvey Park, said the festival gets bigger every year.

“The first year, we had (two or three) booths,” said John Robinson, vice president of HPIA. “It was humble beginnings.”

David Piacenti, an HPIA board member, said these days, it’s important to interact with people in person, and the festival helps people do that.

“I think right now, with social media being so extreme and intense, it’s important for people to physically get together,” he said, and see the “people in the community who support you.”

The community-centric event has grown from small beginnings to boasting a bustling park scene that included booths from political candidates in local races. Robert Rodriguez, a Democratic candidate for state Senate District 32, met festival attendees at a booth. Gaytan, a candidate for Denver Public Schools Board of Education District 2, also had a booth.

“Harvey Park is the heart of the district, so I wanted to come out and meet people in the community – and overindulge on food trucks,” said Zach Neumann, a Democratic candidate for state Senate District 32. “I think (the festival) represents the best of Denver – a bunch of communities coming together to have fun with family.

“It’s kind of a beautiful thing.”

Valencia Yazzie, a 27-year-old Harvey Park resident, and her husband came with their children after “driving by,” her husband said.

“So far the food” was her favorite part, Yazzie said. Her children enjoyed an activity with bean bags, she said.

For Helen Garrison, a 69-year-old neighborhood resident, the best part was taking everything in.

“Just walking around watching everything,” she said.

It was her first time coming to the festival, and she said she plans to come next year.