As Colorado’s new governor, Jared Polis, officially starts his job, we wish him the best to lead a state government that supports our communities, families and businesses.

So here’s 7 ideas to help the new Polis administration get started on the right foot, based on an article by former Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson written to incoming governors across the nation.

1. Bring everyone to the table to make education better

On the campaign trail, candidates always promise to “bring everyone together” to create solutions. So now is the time to do just that. While Polis’ education transition team has made headlines, currently the team has no teachers on it. Teachers — specifically teachers of the year — should be part of the discussions along with experts — and especially parents.

2. Talk about why education matters

In his article, Robinson suggests a “one-hour public address each spring and fall semester … to commemorate an important anniversary in the state’s educational or economic history” with the purpose of reminding citizens “why education matters to the ‘learning-and-earning culture’ of the state.”

As a former member of the Colorado Board of Education and founder of several charter schools, Polis is a strong advocate for education choice and reform. He could celebrate the anniversary of the 1993 law that made charter schools possible. There are many new charters starting all around the state.

And while we might disagree that putting students to sleep for an hour is the way to go about it, with a little creativity this could be a good way to recognize Colorado’s wonderful array of education options.

3. Hire the “best and brightest” — including those with disabilities

Governor Hickenlooper was recognized for hiring persons with disabilities and Governor Polis should continue that trend. There are over 300,000 Coloradans living with some form of disability and of working age. According to RespectAbility.org, Colorado ranks #12 for advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, including both visible conditions, such as blindness, as well as invisible disabilities such as autism or learning disabilities.

4. Take action on criminal justice reform

Robinson suggests appointing a “Smart About Crime/Smart About Time Commission to help reform state incarceration, reentry to society and recidivism programs.” According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the Colorado state prison budget has increased over 1288% over the past 35 years. Robinson states “this area is ripe for a new governor to identify policy and research-based solutions that create second chances, keep the public safe, hold people accountable, and recognize victims and families.” He recommends a firm end date with key metrics to be able to measure the effectiveness of any reforms.

5. Hire the “best and brightest” — including those with a criminal record

This may sounds strange, but Robinson points out that many HR professionals admitted in a 2018 study that they would be willing to hire someone with a history of “substance-related felony” such as a DUI or drug-related crime or a misdemeanor such as vandalism or shoplifting. Where the rubber hits the road on criminal justice reform, and stopping cycles of generational incarceration, is giving those with certain criminal records a second chance. As the Society for Human Resource Management points out, 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. At a time of record employment, Polis could lead by example and bring his positive vision to families facing the consequences of a past mistake.

6. Encourage government innovation from within government

Polis was an internet entrepreneur before he became a congressman so this one might have particular appeal to him. For this item, Robinson proposes an annual competition encouraging state government employees propose entrepreneurial ideas. The prize would be $5,000 awarded to 5 individuals who propose actionable ideas to address those “intractable problems that plague each administration.” This contest invites “smart, tenacious state employees to the solutions table,” not just the hired staff. This free-thinking and entrepreneurial spirit could be a great way for Polis to establish himself as an open-minded governor open to empowering employees and solving challenging issues in creative ways.

7. Understand the policies that actually help — and hurt — fragile communities

Finally, Robinson says incoming governors should all read a Gallup/Center for Advancing Opportunity report called “The State of Opportunity in America Report” that summarizes a survey of over 6,200 people in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The results of the survey will help Polis and other governors to better understand the challenges of “people living in fragile communities” and what they constantly face with regards to poverty, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The report also addresses policies that improve access to quality education and health care — issues that Polis has stated are important for his administration. Colorado has an economically-diverse population, especially outside of the Front Range. An open-minded understanding of the challenges elsewhere in the state, as well as innovative solutions that don’t require more government intervention, will help Polis serve people across the state.

This list and these ideas run across all party lines and align with most Coloradans’ values. As Polis picks up the mantle of the governorship, this could help pull together a rather fractured state inside a rather fractured country to do some good.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think of these ideas? What advice would you have for the new governor to expand opportunity across Colorado? Let us know on Facebook!

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