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Stephen Varela State Board of Education Updates

Stephen Varela, State Board of Education, CD3 Representative

April 2023 Update

It is my pleasure to serve as the Representative to the State Board of Education for Congressional District 3. I am excited to bring your voice to the State Board and to focus on the needs of students, staff and communities. As the only sitting member of the State Board of Education with school-aged children, I bring a unique perspective to our work.

Below are updates on the work we are doing at the State Board of Education and legislation that is pending in the State Legislature. I have also included a brief update on the proposed 2023-24 State Budget.

State Board of Education Work:

The State Board of Education is looking for a new Commissioner of Education. In December of 2022 our current commissioner, Katy Anthes announced she will be retiring at the end of June 2023. Unlike other State Leadership positions which are appointed by the Governor, the Commissioner of Education is hired by the State Board of Education. The Commissioner oversees the work of the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). CDE oversees a budget of about $6.5 BILLION dollars and guides the education of over 885,000 students. Local school boards are responsible for their spending and curriculum while the State Board of Education sets statewide standards, chooses statewide assessments and manages the accountability system.

Read more about the Commissioner’s resignation here.

Read more about the Colorado Department of Education here.

If you know someone interested in applying to be the Commissioner of Education read more here.

Upcoming State Board of Education Meetings:

201 East Colfax Ave, Denver Colorado 80203

April 12th 8:00am State Board of Education Ribbon Cutting for new Board Room

April 12th 9:00am State Board of Education Meeting agenda includes rule making for the new Healthy School Meals for All Program.

April 13th 9:30am State Board of Education Meeting agenda includes discussions on potential updates to financing for blended learning programs, increasing engagement of State Board members in grant making processes and an update on the Commissioner search process.

Colorado Budget Updates:

The Colorado House and Senate have passed initial versions of the budget bill for 2023-24; known at the long bill, the budget appropriates $38.5 billion in spending, an 8.9% increase over this fiscal year.

Education funding will become clearer later this month when the School Finance Act is considered.  Initial estimates are per pupil funding will increase an average of $900 per student.

Spending on Medicaid is expected to increase to $15.5 BILLION dollars next year as Medicaid eligibility expands and the federal government’s temporary COVID related spending increases end. Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Finance, which oversees the State’s Medicaid budget will be allocated almost two thirds of the 8.9% increase and the department will have the largest of all Colorado departments.

Read more about the Colorado Budget Bill here.

Read more about the Increases in Colorado Medicaid Spending and the budget bill here.

Education funding will become clearer later this month when the School Finance Act is considered.  Initial estimates are per pupil funding will increase an average of $900 per student.

Tracking Education Legislation:

SB23-258 Colorado Department of Education is proposing consolidation of educator preparation programs. This bipartisan bill will be heard in the Senate Education Committee 4.10.2023. Read more here.

SB23-061 Elimination of State Assessments in Social Studies – The State Board of Education in a party line vote passed new Social Studies Standards in late 2022, read more here. Democrats in the State Legislature are sponsoring a bill that would eliminate state required social studies assessments; read more here.

SB23-065 Career Development Success Program increases funding to the programs from $1 million to $10 million starting in 2023-34 and makes it easier for students to enter some career fields. Read more here.

SB23-205 Universal High School Scholarship Program provides scholarships in the 2024-25 academic year for students who pursue high demand careers. Read more here.

HB23-1025 Charter School Application Timelines extends the 12 month timeline for prospective charter school applications to 18 months. Read more here.

HB23-1231 Math in Pre-Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade, addresses significant declines in math achievement; this bill requires the Colorado Department of Education to offer free evidence-based math training and sets up programs for helping improve math achievement.  Read more here.

HB23-1246 Support In-Demand Career Workforce, sets aside funds for the Community College system to provide certificate programs for in demand careers. Read more here.

HB23-1241 Task Force to Study K-12 Accountability sets up a task force to report on potential improvements to the State’s education accountability and accreditation systems. Read more here.

Stephen Varela in the community:Varela mesa.png

I was excited to join a group of passionate community members in Mesa County to discuss the work of the State Board of Education. In the next couple of weeks I will be in Glenwood Springs and Pueblo meeting with school leaders as well as community members. If you have a group of people you would like me to meet or have any questions or suggestions for our work please email me at varelaforcolorado@gmail.com.  

Stephen Varela

State Board of Education

CD3 Representative

Stephen Varela represents the residents of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District on the State Board of Education. Stephen has his master’s degree in social work and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. He sat on the Board of a Pueblo Charter school and the Early Learning Ventures Advisory Committee. Stephen is a veteran and worked for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. He cofounded Student Veterans of America at CSU-Pueblo. Stephen and his wife reside in Pueblo with their four children ages 5-15. He is the only State Board member with school aged children and is the highest Latino Republican Official in Colorado.