By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– In one of the most highly educated states in the country, it’s hard to believe that 300,000 Coloradans don’t have a high school diploma. State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger believes it is an urgent problem.

(credit: CBS)

By next year, the Department of Education said 74% of all jobs in Colorado will require not just a high school education but higher education.

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Going back to school as an adult can be terrifying. And as an adult refugee, even more so.

Two years ago, Khatira went from a highly-educated attorney to someone who couldn’t help her kids with homework.

Khatira

Khatira (credit: CBS)

“I was looking for some classes, try to improve my language and start again here, my life,” said Khatira.

She found far more at Spring Institute, a nonprofit that offers adult education and childcare.

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“After two semesters, my English improved and that helped me to apply for college.”

But her story is the exception not the rule in Colorado, which became the last state in the country to fund adult education and still makes the second lowest investment.

Khatira

Khatira (credit: CBS)

“We want to empower adults to be able to change their lives for the better,” said Zenzinger, a Democrat representing Arvada.

She’s introducing a bill to increase funding and expand adult education, saying the state will pay one way or another, “through the criminal justice system, through some of our safety net programs, definitely accessing some things such as Medicaid.”

Rachel Zenzinger

Rachel Zenzinger (credit: CBS)

“We would be able to help so many more people,” said Matthew Mengesha at Spring Institute.

Mengesha said they educated 500 adults last year and yet didn’t receive any state funding, “We are leaders amongst many things in Colorado, and we think that expanding adult education will really take our economy and our state to the next level.”

Matthew Mengesha

Matthew Mengesha (credit: CBS)

They also hope to change lives like Khatira’s. She now works as a policy advocate at Spring Institute and is earning a degree as a paralegal, “I am giving full credit to those classes. If they want people be self-sufficient, than this is very important.”

Right now, state funding goes only to about five literacy programs.

Rachel Zenzinger

Rachel Zenzinger (credit: CBS)

Zenzinger says she is working on where to get the additional money and is hoping the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment can help with some workforce development dollars.

(credit: CBS)

Shaun Boyd

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