By Ben Warwick

DENVER (CBS4) – State Republican lawmakers are asking Governor Jared Polis to call the legislature to the Capitol for a special session. Their hopes are to develop new policies to protect access to education in the midst of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The letter is signed by 36 state senators and representatives.

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“As the school year rapidly approaches, tens of thousands of parents throughout Colorado have entreated us to take action both to ensure the health and safety of their children and to prevent them from falling behind in their education as we deal with this unprecedented crisis,” the group writes in the letter. Parents need concrete, actionable, and flexible options for the 2020-2021 school year. Kids get one chance to receive a quality education, so we urge you to take immediate action to prevent lifetime damage to Colorado’s children.”

Lawmakers are calling for a direct education support package for families, available to those families whose children cannot attend public school full-time due to the virus, whether the reason is for risk factors or due to a school’s decision not to operate in person. Under the “Safe Learning Choices” act, families would receive to some or all of their child’s per pupil revenue. That money could be used for parents to stay at home, purchase curriculum, materials, or technology, or hire a private educator.

“The Senate Democrats have already responded that they don’t support that proposal to cut funding to our public schools. Frankly, that proposal would result in less choices for parents by forcing the closures of some schools and some of the online programs that already exist in our state,” Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday.

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“To be clear, our greatest concern is for those families who are most economically challenged. Many Colorado families—particularly single parent households—are facing an impossible choice: either work to put food on the table or stay at home to educate their child,” the letter states. “If the state does not adapt education funding to recognize this obvious and undeniable reality, thousands of kids will be denied the quality education they deserve and need.”

Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat representing District 3 in Pueblo, responded by saying the proposal would gut public schools already struggling financially due to COVID-19.

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“The GOP’s proposal would hollow out public schools – which are already struggling – and create an inconsistent patchwork of learning experiences for our kids.” Garcia said in a tweet posted Tuesday.

The governor said in a news conference on Tuesday he wouldn’t be opposed to a special session if everyone was in agreement with a specific plan.

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Ben Warwick