DENVER (CBS) – Just over two weeks ago the Senate passed the most sweeping education reform since No Child Left Behind in 2001, and one of Colorado’s senators is leading the charge.

Sen. Michael Bennet was the lead sponsor. He’s the former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and he has been fighting for education reform since he went to Washington seven years ago.

“I wondered why everybody in Washington was so mean to our kids and to our teachers and I got back there and discovered that they’re not actually mean. They’re well intentioned. But they have no idea what’s going on in our schools and our classrooms,” he told CBS4.

Protests against the number of standardized tests students must take in public schools played out in Colorado and across the country last spring. Bennet’s bill would, for the first time, would cap the number of required standardized tests.

Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

“It says to districts that want to exceed that cap you need to explain to moms and dads why you’re doing that,” he said.

It also changes how the tests measure growth to reflect real disparities throughout the state.

“Only nine out of 100 poor kids can expect to get a college degree or its equivalent,” Bennet said. “I can’t think of anything that’s more at war with who are as Americans than that. And that’s what we’ve got to find a way to fix.”

But instead of the federal government dictating fixes, his bill would leave it to the states. There’s also money for recruiting and retaining the best and brightest teachers.

“Whether you are a rural or urban communty, the most import thing is good teachers,” he said.

And if you want good teachers, Bennet says you need good principals. His bill would increase training and resources for principals while decreasing regulations and red tape.

“For too long we’ve treated America’s kids as if they’re someone else’s kids and not our kids,” he said.

“I think we’re just getting started, and there’s so much more to do.”

The House passed a bill that includes some of the same reforms. Now the two chambers need to work out the differences before sending the bill to the president.

Bennet says he’s optimistic given there is wide bipartisan support for many of the changes.


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