Candidates discuss early childhood education in Routt County
September 26, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Candidates for Routt County and state offices focused Wednesday on education and the importance of not letting area youths fall through the cracks.
Wednesday's forum at the Routt County Courthouse was presented by First Impressions of Routt County, a county government organization that advocates for education and child care for children who have yet to start school.
The forum was attended by candidates for the Routt County Board of Commissioners — District 1 candidates Jim "Moose" Barrows and Tim Corrigan as well as District 2 incumbent Doug Monger and opponent Tina Kyprios — and Emily Tracy, a Breckenridge Democrat running in Senate District 8. Her opponent, Republican Randy Baumgardner, did not attend the forum. Also attending were Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush and Chuck McConnell, who are running against each other for the Colorado House District 26 seat.
All of the candidates were supportive of efforts to fund early childhood education. House District 26 candidate Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, said solid research consistently shows that every dollar invested in early childhood education results in a return of $27. The problem is finding the dollars to make the initial investment.
Mitsch Bush said if elected, she would change the way programs are funded. Currently, average median incomes dictate how programs are funded, and lower-income families are the ones who suffer because they can't qualify for help, she said.
"Some of our children 'aren't poor enough,' and that's something I want to change at the state level," Mitsch Bush said.
House District 26 candidate McConnell, a Republican, agreed that early childhood education was important, especially during hard economic times when parents struggle to properly prepare their children to attend school. If tax revenues did increase in Colorado like they are expected to, McConnell said, he thinks some of that funding should go to child care and preschool programs. If funding was cut from those programs, he thinks community members would find a way to support it.
"Not everything has to come from the government," McConnell said.
District 1 county commissioner candidates Barrows and Corrigan said it was important to create opportunities for children.
Corrigan, a Democrat who has been the South Routt School Board president since 2006, said he excels in leadership positions. He said the economy is playing a big role in the lives of children as their parents are having to work multiple jobs, and he pleaded with the state Legislature to come up with more funding for schools.
"We've been rearranging the tables and chairs of the Titanic for the last four or five years, and it's getting kind of old," Corrigan said.
Barrows, a Republican, said he was fortunate to grow up in Steamboat and to have so many opportunities the rest of the world does not have. The former U.S. Alpine Ski Team member and Olympian said he has worked with fundraising efforts to make sure similar opportunities are available to underprivileged children. Barrows said it was important to maintain the lifestyle that makes Routt County unique. He said to do that, parents need to be able to afford to live here so their children can have those unique opportunities.
District 2 commissioner candidates Monger and Kyprios also expressed their support of early childhood education.
Kyprios, a Republican and former accountant and auditor with the U.S. Army, said she was running for commissioner because a fresh perspective and vitality were needed in the office. She sees one of the biggest issues in Routt County being the cost of living and said the commissioners' role should be to help provide a robust economy that helps all families. She said it is important to educate residents about the economic disparities in the county.
"We've got to make sure everyone understands that rural Routt County is very different than Steamboat Springs," she said.
Monger, a Democrat, was elected to a county commissioner seat in 2000 and said his biggest concern is children who are allowed to fall through the cracks in part because their working parents continue to struggle.
"There are things that county government can do, but there are things that county government can't do," Monger said.
He said the county needs to prepare for the economic recovery by identifying future needs.
"Hopefully, we're working toward a sustainable economy that's growing," Monger said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com