The Colorado Children’s Campaign is pleased to welcome two new leaders to our It’s About Kids state-wide advocacy network. Sarah Wilhelm is a research analyst for San Juan College and joins the network team in La Plata County. Sarah is an economist and policy research specialist and came to Colorado after working at the Montana Budget and Policy Center and Voices for Utah Children. Liz McGillvray helps represent the voices of children in Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Park Counties as the Council Coordinator for the Rural Resort Region Early Childhood Council, Western Division. Welcome Sarah and Liz!
It’s About Kids Leaders were joined by community leaders in Salida this week for a community discussion about child well-being and to kick off the annual It’s About Kids Retreat. The Children’s Campaign holds the event each year for It’s About Kids leaders to share information, network and plan for the coming legislative cycle.
Former First Lady Jeanne Ritter delivered remarks on mental health issues to a group of nearly 100 people, including more than 40 It’s About Kids leaders from around the state. She joined a panel discussion on the well-being of Chaffee County kids by David Blackburn, Director of Academic Affairs for the Salida School District; Monica Haskell, Supervisor of Youth, Family and Adult Services in Chaffee County; Cheryl Walker, Family Health Coordinator for Chaffee County Public Health and Chaffee County Connect for Health Colorado Manager; and Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives for the Children’s Campaign.
After the community luncheon and discussion, It’s About Kids leaders gathered to discuss recent policy achievements, explore trends in child well-being and plan future efforts to improve the lives of Colorado kids. The leaders were joined by State Rep. Jim Wilson and Sen. Larry Crowder to discuss the past legislative session.
The It’s About Kids Network is comprised of community leaders in 43 counties across Colorado who voice the unique needs of children in their communities, engage local and statewide policy makers and help shape the Children’s Campaign annual policy agenda.
The annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! tour has begun with staff from the Colorado Children’s Campaign traveling to Colorado Springs, Greeley, Grand Junction, Montrose, and Glenwood Springs to present local data from the 2014 KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report in partnership with our It’s About Kids leaders. The presentations provide an opportunity for health, early childhood and K-12 education professionals, community and business leaders, legislators and staff, parents and other engaged citizens to come together and learn more about child well-being in their communities. These presentations would not be possible without our IAK leaders and partners throughout the state. Thank you to Alliance for Kids, Promises for Children, United Way of Weld County, Mesa County Partnership for Children & Families, Mesa County Libraries, and Hilltop for hosting us! Stay tuned to KidsFlash for updates from the road. To request a presentation in your community, contact Liz Houston at email@example.com.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign is excited to welcome two new It’s About Kids leaders to our network of child advocates. Betsy Overton is the Coordinator for Connections 4 Kids which provides resources and services to young children in Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties. Emily Bustos is Executive Director of the Denver Early Childhood Council. Welcome Betsy and Emily!
- Strengthen Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was approved 9-2 by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee late Thursday evening after more than six hours of testimony. The bill strikes a balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health by strengthening rules parents can use to opt-out of childhood vaccinations. Proponents for the bill included parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado. It’s About Kids Network Leaders Vangi McCoy (Montezuma County) and Shirley Ritter (Pitkin County) testified in favor of the bill. It seeks to reduce the number of children who go to school without the vaccinations they need to protect them from preventable diseases like whooping cough. The bill has broad support from the health, education and child advocacy communities, as well as bi-partisan sponsorship. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
- Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was introduced this week and is scheduled for its first hearing on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and to keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers, education, and achieve financial stability. At the same time, all Colorado kids need access to stimulating environments that help them learn and grow. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in Colorado denies many working families access to this vital need. One of our best tools to help families afford child care is CCCAP. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Click here to read more.
- Alternative Health Care Providers Treating Children: SB 14-32 (Lundberg/no House sponsor) was approved by the full Senate 18-17 this week and moves to the House. It would eliminate safeguards designed to protect our youngest children by allowing alternative health care providers to treat children of any age, without limitation around services that can be provided or disclosures regarding training and qualifications. The Children’s Campaign joins the American Academy of Pediatrics-Colorado Chapter, Children’s Hospital Colorado and consumer advocacy groups in opposing this legislation. Essential and time-sensitive health care services that all young children need—including immunizations and developmental screenings—can only can be provided by trained medical professionals. SB 32 undermines legislation passed last year to ensure children under age 2 receive these important services. Click here to learn more.
- School Counselor Corps Grant Program: SB 14-150 (Todd/Zenzinger, Hamner) was approved 4-2 by the Senate Education Committee Thursday and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Children’s Campaign supports this increase in targeted funding that helps increase effective school-based counseling within high schools with a focus on preparing students for college, career and life. Roughly 54,000 students across the state are positively impacted by the program each year. The Counselor Corps program serves schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students. Since the program’s inception in 2008 it has a proven record of increasing on-time graduation rates, decreasing dropout rates and decreasing remediation rates as students go on to college. We thank Sens. Todd and Zenzinger and Rep. Hamner for their wise use of state dollars to invest in programs we know are impacting the lives of students across Colorado.
Parents and child advocates from across Colorado gathered at the State Capitol Thursday for the third annual Speak Up for Kids Day at the Capitol. More than 135 participants filled the halls to talk to legislators about child health and early childhood issues in Colorado. The day began with a training session that included a review of current legislation in child health and early childhood, role playing in preparation for legislative visits and remarks from Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen). Both legislators congratulated advocates for speaking up about the issues they care about and emphasized the value of hearing from constituents.
Participants then met directly with their legislators to discuss ways to improve children’s health and early childhood experiences in Colorado. Many of the participants were motivated to take action because of their own experiences with children in their communities.
Speak Up for Kids was hosted by Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC). Read more about the day from the perspective of attendees by searching for #SpeakUpCO on Twitter and Facebook. See a complete set of photos on Facebook and Flickr.
Libby Culver, Director of Early Childhood Programs for Durango School District 9-R and It’s About Kids (IAK) Network Leader in La Plata County, testified at the State Board of Education meeting on Tuesday in favor of the new Colorado Academic Standards. She said her teachers are assured with the Colorado Academic Standards that all students, regardless of method of instruction or learning framework, are all mastering the same skills and meeting the same expectations. See below for her full testimony. Many thanks to Libby and other IAK leaders who came to Denver this week to speak up for kids.
Libby Culver – Testimony to the State Board of Education – March 11, 2014
Good afternoon. My name is Libby Culver, and I am the Director of Early Childhood Programs for Durango School District 9-R. I am here today to speak to you about the Colorado Academic Standards and how we have come to embrace and use them in our district’s preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Our teachers appreciate the clear expectations that the standards provide, and they have done a lot of work with their colleagues to better understand the progression from one grade level to the next and the importance of strong foundational learning. That isn’t to say that we think they are perfect or that they couldn’t be better. The standards, while addressing ten content areas, still overlook the developmental areas that our early childhood teachers must support, nurture, and focus on. For preschool, we feel the new Early Learning & Development Guidelines better reflect these additional areas that are equally important in the early years. Combining the Guidelines’ inclusion of social and emotional development, physical development and health with the Colorado Academic Standards creates more robust and effective guidance for our teachers. Our use of Teaching Strategies GOLD as our ongoing, authentic assessment tool reports on all these areas.
While some opponents are dismayed that someone outside our community is telling us what our teachers should teach, we disagree. We see the standards as clear evidence for what our children should know, but we know that there are a wide variety of ways to get children to that point. Teachers in early childhood should be observing their students to determine where their strengths, areas of need and interests are and then designing the learning activities and environment to meet those needs. Obviously that looks different in every classroom! Of our 7 elementary schools, 3 of them are part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Those students in IB schools get different kinds of instruction with units of inquiry, but we are assured with our focus on the Colorado Academic Standards that all students regardless of method of instruction or learning framework, are mastering the same skills and meeting the same expectations.
This is the third in a three-part series highlighting success stories from the It’s About Kids Network in 2013.
In rural Colorado, a group of local advocates showed the impact people can have when they join together in a common cause. In order to build a choir singing from the same songbook, the La Plata County It’s About Kids team developed a brochure packed with information about how residents can speak up for better health and educational opportunities for La Plata County kids. It’s About Kids is a state-wide partnership of local child advocates focused on improving child health and education.
The volunteer team used a mini-grant from the Colorado Children’s Campaign to print copies of the brochure to provide an overview of It’s About Kids, share facts about child well-being in La Plata County and promote opportunities for Coloradans to make their voice heard. They distributed the brochure widely in the community. The team then used a second mini-grant to take the brochure online with a dedicated web page on the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County’s website.
The Children’s Campaign mini-grants were designed to increase the reach and effectiveness of the It’s About Kids Network. Support for the grants came from The Colorado Trust’s public will-building effort to achieve better access to health care for all Coloradans.
Given the success in La Plata County, It’s About Kids teams in Chaffee, Summit, Pitkin and Garfield counties and the San Luis Valley also used mini-grants to replicate the La Plata brochure to reach out to members of their own communities. Together, the It’s About Kids volunteers are working with their communities to build momentum around access to health care and getting Coloradans the care they need, when they need it.
The It’s About Kids advocacy network at the Colorado Children’s Campaign continues to grow! We are extremely pleased to welcome a new community—Grand County. Our leaders there are Sheryl Shushan, Executive Director of the Rural Resort Region NE Early Childhood Council; Jane Harmon, Principal of Granby Elementary School; Jennifer Fanning, Executive Director of the Grand County Rural Health Network; and Michelle Balleck, Director of Marketing and Public Relations with Middle Park Medical Center. We are also excited to welcome Jackie Florendo, the Alliance for Kids Coordinator for the Early Childhood Council, as our IAK leader in El Paso County and Jason Glass, Superintendent of Eagle County School District, as our newest leader in Eagle County. Welcome all!