Lukens: Investing in our students

We had many young visitors at the state Capitol this month, from South Routt Elementary’s fourth-grade class to my Civics class students at Steamboat Mountain School. Every day at the Capitol, I am reminded of how important it is that we take care of our children and youth in Colorado. They are the future of this great state, and as a member of the Education Committee, I sponsor several bills that support both our students and educators.

Prioritizing early child care

I am working with a team of bipartisan legislators to pass HB 24-1237, Programs for the Development of Child Care Facilities. Fifty-one percent of all Coloradans and 53% of rural Coloradans live in a licensed child care desert, which means that there are more than three children for every licensed child care spot. Families should have access to child care near where they live or work, and this bill creates a more favorable environment for the development, creative reuse, and community integration of child care facilities.

Supporting our schools

We are in the midst of the budget process at the Capitol, and we are committed to eliminating the Budget Stabilization Factor. This significant investment in our educational institutions will, at last, fulfill the promised funding levels that Colorado’s students rightfully deserve. This work began last year, when we passed SB23-287, the School Finance Act, committing to fully funding our public schools. This year’s budget, HB24-1430, provides the funding to make this commitment a reality, increasing the total education funding for education by $525.8 million.

Amid our workforce shortage that is especially impacting our schools, we need to address the varying reasons why teachers are leaving the profession. One issue of concern is around safety. HB24-1320, Educator Safety Task Force, takes a step to invest in the safety of our students and educators. This bill is solutions-focused and studies the impact of state policy, staff shortages, and resource inequalities on the safety of public school staff while developing a set of recommendations to invest in the safety of our students and educators.

Promoting mental health

HB-24-1096, School Psychologist Licensure Interstate Compact, will help address the current shortage of mental health and special education professionals available to youth in our state. This bill provides a tool for addressing school psychologist workforce shortages and strengthens labor markets. By supporting highly qualified school psychologists who want to move into our schools, we are promoting the mental health and well-being of our students.

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Additionally, we have also seen an increase in the correlation between mental health issues and teenage social media addiction. With these current challenges, I have been working on SB24-158, a bill to protect our young people from online bad actors — specifically relating to illegal firearm sales and illicit drugs — targeting our youth on social media. I saw firsthand as a high school teacher the impact that social media has on teenagers, and I know many parents are navigating the tech-dependent world we now live in which is why this legislation is crucial in keeping our youth safe.

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Supporting our children and their future is the Western Slope way. Hearing from my constituents always helps me better represent our district and I believe listening and learning is the best way to find common ground on sensitive and important topics. If you have any comments on upcoming legislation or issues you would like to raise, please contact me at If you would like to be added to my newsletter for more frequent legislative updates, feel free to send me an email as well.

Let’s keep in touch and keep making a difference for House District 26. Onward.

Meghan Lukens of Steamboat Springs is the representative for Colorado’s House District 26, which encompasses Moffat, Rio Blanco, Eagle, and Routt counties.

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