Education

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gov. Polis signs final bills into law, announces five vetoes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5.

At a June 3 appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said this year's legislative session delivered victories for health care and education.

He emphasized that 95 percent of the 454 bills he signed "were bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats working together to make Colorado better."

Polis vetoed five bills on May 31, three of which concerned state occupational licensing requirements. The vetoes drew consternation from lawmakers in Polis' own party, including Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge. Duran sponsored House Bill 1212, which would have extended a program requiring managers of homeowners associations, or HOAs, to have state licenses.

“We are greatly disappointed that the work we have done to protect homeowners’ biggest investments in their lifetime — their homes — has been undone," Duran said via a statement from the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Colorado Legislative Action Committee. CAI is an international membership organization for homeowners, HOA managers and businesses that provide services for HOAs.
"Managers of HOAs will no longer have to be licensed, which means they are not required to have background checks, demonstrate any knowledge of core competencies, show they understand Colorado HOA law or get continuing education," Duran continued.

On the other hand, Polis' vetoes drew rare approval from some conservatives.

“Governor Polis is right to veto legislation that makes it harder for Coloradans to find work," said Jesse Mallory, the state director of libertarian and conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Mallory was quoted in a statement from the group.

"Too often occupational licenses—government permission slips to work—are misused to protect entrenched interests, slamming the door on the dreams of would-be entrepreneurs," he added.

With his veto statement, Polis issued an executive order directing the Department of Regulatory Agencies to review existing and potential laws around HOAs and their managers, and recommend strategies for "efficient and effective" regulation.

"Before any unregulated occupation is to be regulated, or any regulated occupation is to be continued, the state should complete its due diligence to ensure that regulation will, in fact, ensure consumer safety in a cost-efficient manner," Polis wrote in his veto letter. "This bill does not meet that threshold."

Similarly, Polis vetoed Senate Bills 99 and 133, which would have required licenses for sports agents and genetic counselors. Both bills were sponsored by Democrats.

"Licensing in the United States over the years has at times prevented minorities and the economically disadvantaged from having the ability to access occupations," Polis wrote.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 169, which would have made changes to the budget submission process for information technology projects, saying that it limited the governor's ability to manage state contracts.

House Bill 1305 would have given tribal governments access to state databases for conducting background checks in child welfare cases. In his veto letter, Polis said the bill contained errors that would have forced tribes to comply with state child protection requirements. So in place of the bill, he issued an executive order allowing tribal governments access to the state databases while leaving out those mandates.

"In Colorado, we respect our government-to-government relationship with the Tribes," Polis wrote. "We also are committed to making resources available to assist the Tribes in conducting their governmental responsibilities."

In other news, here's some highlights from the list of bills Polis recently signed.

EDUCATION

House Bill 1032: "Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education" appropriates money ($1 million annually) for the state’s grant program for schools that want to add comprehensive sexual education, closes a loophole that allowed private contractors to collect government money for teaching abstinence-only classes in public schools and ends an exemption for charter schools to the requirements. It also prohibits schools that have sex ed courses from teaching religious ideology, using shame-based or stigmatizing language, employing gender stereotypes, or excluding the experiences of LGBT individuals.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Don Coram, R-Montrose
House Bill 1110: "Media Literacy" creates an advisory committee to make recommendations for ways to teach K-12 students how to read news critically, and discern fake news from the real thing. It allocates $19,800 from the state's general fund to the Department of Education for this purpose.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood
Senate Bill 007: “Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses” requires higher education campuses to adopt policies on sexual misconduct based on minimum requirements set out in the bill. It provides for oversight and requires training on the policies.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora

LGBT RIGHTS

House Bill 1039: "Identity Documents For Transgender Persons" makes it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender on their birth certificates (without court order, surgery or doctor recommendation).
  • Sponsors: Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
House Bill 1129: "Prohibit Conversion Therapy for A Minor" prevents licensed mental health and medical professionals from attempting to change a minor’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy. Democrats, who won control of the Senate last fall, were finally able to pass this bill on the fifth annual attempt.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Esgar, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

House Bill 1176: The "Health Care Cost Savings Act of 2019" creates a task force to analyze the costs of alternative health care financing systems, such as single-payer, and make a report to state legislators. Polis signed the bill, but noted his concern that the bill's appropriation (around $100,000) wouldn't be enough to hire an analyst. He directed the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to let him know in October whether legislators should request more money next session.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette
House Bill 1279: "Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances" bans firefighting foam that contains certain toxic, man-made chemicals: those classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. (An amendment to the bill makes an exception for when PFAS-containing foam is "required for a military purpose.") The bill also requires manufacturers to disclose when personal protective equipment contains PFAS.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Dennis Hisey, R-Colorado Springs
Senate Bill 077: "Electric Motor Vehicles Public Utility Services" requires public utilities to facilitate charging stations and to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver

COURTS AND PUBLIC SAFETY

House Bill 1324: "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" adds protections against lawsuits viewed by First Amendment advocates, media organizations and others at infringing upon free speech. Specifically, it allows defendants accused of libel or slander to ask a judge to dismiss a civil case on the grounds that they were simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech or to petition the government.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Cutter and Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Sen. Foote
Senate Bill 179: "Enhance School Safety Incident Response Grant Program" adds funding to an existing state program, which funds nonprofit-led school safety training for law enforcement and school districts. The bill appropriates $1.16 million to the Department of Public Safety for the program.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Lee and Rep. James Wilson, R-Salida
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo prepares to welcome another baby giraffe

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 5:51 PM

Msitu was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2009. She's due to give birth soon to her third calf. - COURTESY OF CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Msitu was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2009. She's due to give birth soon to her third calf.

Less than a week after Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's two-toed sloth Chalupa had her first baby, the zoo announced it has another pregnant mammal in its midst: Msitu, a 10-year-old reticulated giraffe, is due to give birth sometime in the next couple of months.

Msitu has already given birth to two healthy calves. Emy, 5, now lives at Peoria Zoo in Illinois, and 2-year-old Rae is currently the youngest member of the herd at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Msitu bred with 11-year-old Khalid last April, which means she'll likely give birth sometime in June or July (giraffe pregnancies are 14-15 months).

You can try guessing the exact date, hour and minute Msitu will give birth at cmzoo.org/guess to win a "behind-the-scenes animal encounter" with the giraffe herd, zookeepers announced May 21.

Giraffe keepers and veterinarians will also provide weekly updates about Msitu's pregnancy on the zoo's Facebook page.

“Giraffe calves can be fragile, so we try to encourage people to be realistic about the risks while they enjoy the excitement of the hope we know giraffe calves bring to so many,” says African Rift Valley animal care manager Jason Bredahl, who was quoted in a statement from the zoo. “We’re optimistic that advances in medicine, like the availability of giraffe plasma and stem cell treatments, will help us navigate any medical needs the calf may have.”

Last summer, the zoo euthanized giraffe calf Penny just two months after mom Muziki gave birth to her. She faced an infection and dislocated hip that zookeepers and veterinarians determined would keep her from having a good quality of life.

While you eagerly wait for the zoo's live-streaming giraffe "birth cam" to activate on May 28, here's another cute sloth pic:

Chalupa bonds with her new baby. - COURTESY OF CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Chalupa bonds with her new baby.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Baby sloth born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 4:37 PM

We feel like "Junior" is a pretty good nickname for this wee creature. - COURTESY OF CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • We feel like "Junior" is a pretty good nickname for this wee creature.
Big news from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Two-toed sloth Chalupa gave birth to an adorable baby sloth at 12:15 p.m. on May 15.

"The baby appears to be strong, and first-time mom, 19-year-old Chalupa, is exhibiting quality maternal instincts," the zoo notes in a statement.

Before discovering Chalupa was pregnant during an unrelated check-up, zookeepers had no idea that Chalupa and the baby daddy, 27-year-old Bosco, were even into each other. They lived together four years and had showed no signs of breeding, but they apparently kept their relationship on the down-low.

Chalupa and "Junior" just chilling out. - COURTESY OF CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Chalupa and "Junior" just chilling out.

“Sloths are famously adored for their slow-motion lifestyles,” Joanna Husby, Monkey Pavilion animal care manager, is quoted as saying. “Even successful breeding and conception can take longer for sloth parents than other animals. This baby was worth the wait, though."

The baby's gender won't be known for months, and there's no immediate plans to name the young sloth. Chalupa and baby are visible to guests in the Monkey Pavilion, but they're staying in an exhibit with a little more privacy, separate from the main sloth hangout over guests' path. They'll join Bosco in the main exhibit in a few months.

Here's a cute video of Mom and baby snuggling:

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Gov. Polis travels to Colorado Springs, Pueblo for bill signings

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2019 at 11:21 AM

Gov. Jared Polis speaks at Sierra High School on May 4. - DEREK KUHN
  • Derek Kuhn
  • Gov. Jared Polis speaks at Sierra High School on May 4.

After stopping in Pueblo to sign several health care and agriculture-related bills, Gov. Jared Polis will visit Centennial Elementary School in Colorado Springs on May 14 to sign three bills passed by the state Legislature.

They include:

House Bill 1013: Sponsored by Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, this bill extends through 2028 the state's existing tax credit for child care expenses to low-income families, equal to 25 percent of child care expenses for taxpayers with a federal adjusted gross income of $25,000 or less. The credit is capped at $500 for a single dependent or $1,000 for two or more dependents.

Senate Bill 176: "Expanding Concurrent Enrollment Opportunities" — sponsored by Sens. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village — requires school districts to offer opportunities for qualified high school students to enroll in college-level classes that can be applied to both a high school degree and a college degree. They may include academic courses, career and technical education, or apprenticeship and internship programs.

House Bill 1147: "Revise Traumatic Brain Injury Program" makes changes to the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund, which provides services for people with brain injuries and funds research and education. Currently, the fund receives revenue from surcharges on DUI convictions, speeding and not wearing a helmet. The bill increases the surcharge assessed for speeding convictions, and expands the types of brain injuries that can be treated, among other changes. The bill's sponsors include two El Paso County Democrats, Rep. Marc Snyder and Sen. Pete Lee.

The bill signing at Centennial Elementary, located at 1860 Chelton Road in Colorado Springs, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. May 14.

Before that, Polis plans to sign House Bill 1132, "School Incentives to Use Colorado Food and Producers," at Milberger Farms in Pueblo at 2 p.m.

He'll also sign House Bill 1174, "Out-of-Network Health Care Services," and House Bill 1326, "Rates for Senior Low-Income Dental Program," at 1 p.m. at Pueblo Community Health Center.

Polis' first stop in Pueblo is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Crossroads Treatment Clinic, where he'll sign four bills:

• Senate Bill 174, "Dependent Tuition Assistance Program Eligibility";
• Senate Bill 001, "Expand Medication-assisted Treatment Pilot Program";
• Senate Bill 065, "Peer Assistance Emergency Medical Service Provider";
• House Bill 1287, "Treatment for Opioids And Substance Use Disorders."
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

University of Colorado faces backlash over presumed pick for president

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 2:16 PM

For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota. - PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Public domain
  • For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota.

Since the University of Colorado Board of Regents named Mark Kennedy as the only finalist for the position of president of CU’s four-campus system (which includes local UCCS), blowback has been monumental. On April 14, a group of CU stakeholders including professors, students, community members and more — more than 4,500 people total — released an open letter to the Board of Regents condemning their choice.

Why? Because Mark Kennedy, former Republican member of Congress, has a voting record that seemingly goes against values CU ostensibly supports. This open letter reads, in part:

Colorado’s reputation as an open and inclusive place to live, work, and study would be damaged by the choice of Mr. Kennedy as President of the University of Colorado. As a member of Congress, Mr. Kennedy voted against stem cell research and against grants for colleges serving Black and Latinx students, and he voted twice against marriage equality. This record runs contrary to the Regents’ commitment to cutting-edge research and to “building a community of students, faculty, and staff in which diversity is a fundamental value.”

A protest was held on the CU-Boulder campus on April 15, and demonstrations will likely continue as Kennedy plans visits to CU campuses throughout the week of April 22. United Mexican American Students y Movimiento Estudiantil Chincanx de Azlán and CU Young Democratic Socialists of America have begun planning a major demonstration on April 26, when Kennedy is slated to appear at CU-Boulder. A comprehensive Facebook page has even been created: CU Against Kennedy, encouraging use of the hashtags #studentsagainstkennedy and #CUagainstkennedy.

Kennedy’s seemingly imminent appointment has even gotten the attention of a major nonprofit organization. On April 18, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains released a statement from its CEO Vicki Cowart, in opposition to Kennedy. “I am alarmed by a litany of his congressional votes on civil rights,” Cowart’s statement says. “Congressman Kennedy voted yes on increasing federal funding for health care providers that refuse to provide or even refer patients for abortion care, voted yes on banning family planning funding for providers abroad who counsel patients on abortion options, and has been a full-throated supporter of the extremist anti-choice movement.”

The statement also mentions his record on same-sex marriage, pointing out that he cosponsored a “Marriage Protection Amendment” during his time in office.

"His background does not rise to the level of president of Colorado’s flagship university that values diversity, human rights, academic research, science, and educational freedom of thought,” Cowart says. “The regents should vote no."
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cripple Creek-Victor School District board recall effort will move forward

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 3:35 PM

STACIE GONZALEZ
  • Stacie Gonzalez
An effort to recall three members of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 board has turned in enough valid signatures for a special election, Teller County Chief Deputy Clerk Stephanie Kees confirmed April 17.

The recall effort, led by the group Hear Us (See Cover, Feb. 27), faced a hurdle when the Teller County Clerk and Recorder's office identified a shortfall of more than 200 valid petition signatures. The recall petitions required at least 400 signatures per school board member, but many of those originally submitted in March were rejected for various reasons. The clerk's office gave Hear Us until April 10 to gather the remaining signatures.

The three targeted school board members — Board President Tim Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin — have until May 2 to protest the election, Kees says. But they can only protest on the grounds that Hear Us does not have enough valid signatures or that the ballot summary language is more than 200 words. (Kees says the clerk's office has confirmed that the signatures are valid and the summary adheres to word limits. However, a hearing would be held in the case that the board members choose to protest anyway.)

Barring a successful protest, the recall election must be held within 60 days after the protest period has passed, Kees says. 
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mr. Trans Colorado Springs suffers injuries in alleged hate crime

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 2:56 PM

Emmit Davis suffered injuries in an attack he says was motivated by anti-transgender bias. - COURTESY EMMIT DAVIS
  • Courtesy Emmit Davis
  • Emmit Davis suffered injuries in an attack he says was motivated by anti-transgender bias.
A transgender man widely known by his drag king persona, Axel G. Roze, suffered a broken nose and orbital fracture in an April 6 attack outside his home, which city police are investigating as a hate crime.

A GoFundMe page seeks to raise $2,000 to cover health costs for Emmit Davis, who was recently awarded the title of Mr. Trans Colorado Springs. As of April 11, the campaign had raised nearly $1,300 to help pay for Davis's emergency room and ambulance fees, as well as screenings for further damage.

Despite his injuries, Davis still plans to perform at 3 p.m. on April 13 at the Zodiac Music Venue and Bar for an all-ages Drag Story Time event.

The Colorado Springs Police Department investigated and confirmed five hate crimes motivated by bias against gay, bisexual and/or transgender people between 2016 and 2018. All occurred in 2016.

Those crimes accounted for 14 percent of the 35 confirmed hate crimes police investigated during the same time period. Last year, 12 hate crimes were confirmed by police, including 10 motivated by racial bias and two motivated by religious bias. Police confirmed eight total hate crimes in 2017 and 15 in 2016.
Davis as his drag king persona, Axel G. Roze, before he was attacked. - COURTESY EMMIT DAVIS
  • Courtesy Emmit Davis
  • Davis as his drag king persona, Axel G. Roze, before he was attacked.
"We treat these [hate crime cases] at a very high level," says police spokesperson Lt. Howard Black. "Our intelligence unit has responsibility for these cases, so they’re something that we put a tremendous amount of investigative energy into. It’s just not acceptable in our city."

In a public Facebook post April 9, Davis said:

"For my community and anyone whose watching..... Our stance our fight has just begun. But I truly need y'all to remember, we are fighting so strongly to be seen as human please do NOT forget our oppressors are human too. Don't forget that we cannot fill ourselves with the same hate guys, or nothing will change. We are and always will be a strong community that's more united and more supportive than any community I have ever witnessed and it's truly amazing so as a community let's show that we don't want to spread more hate. There is nothing in this world that says because I'm trans or because [you're] gay we aren't human, so let's remind people that humanity wasn't meant to be perfect it was meant to be messy, we don't have a cookie cutter to follow. All eyes are on us. Let's give em hell!"
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bill would give "Dreamers" a path to citizenship

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 5:50 PM

"Dreamer" Oscar Guerrero-Olivares (right) was arrested by ICE agents in January. - COURTESY OF THE GUERRERO-OLIVARES FAMILY
  • Courtesy of the Guerrero-Olivares family
  • "Dreamer" Oscar Guerrero-Olivares (right) was arrested by ICE agents in January.
Colorado has more than 17,000 "Dreamers" — people who entered the country illegally as children — who've received temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program since it was implemented in 2012 through an executive order by President Barack Obama.

They account for about 1.9 percent of the country's Dreamers with DACA status, all of whom have been left in limbo since then.

While several court injunctions remain in place to require the federal government to keep processing DACA renewals — necessary every two years — the administration of President Donald Trump halted new applications in September of 2017, and sought to terminate the program altogether.

A piece of legislation championed by House Democrats would provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship, though it has almost zero possibility of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate or of being signed into law by Trump.


The Dream and Promise Act of 2019, introduced March 12, would provide up to 10 years of conditional permanent residence status for Dreamers who met certain criteria. It would also grant lawful permanent residence to people with Temporary Protected Status (2,900 in Colorado alone, according to the Immigration Hub) and Deferred Enforced Departure designations, meaning they cannot return to their countries due to unsafe conditions.


Among the bill's other objectives, according to a fact sheet from the Immigration Hub, an advocacy organization:

• Cancel deportation proceedings for Dreamers who meet certain requirements and background checks.
• Grant lawful permanent residence to Dreamers who pursue higher education, join the military or meet employment requirements.
• Allow Dreamers to receive federal financial aid, as well as professional, commercial and business licenses.
• Allow certain Dreamers deported under the Trump administration to apply for relief from abroad.
• Cancel deportation proceedings for people with TPS and DED status who have been in the U.S. at least three years, for people who had TPS or were eligible on Sept. 25, 2016, and for people who had DED status on Sept. 28, 2016.

If this bill has no chance of becoming law, why is it important? Vox argues "it’s a statement of the Democratic consensus on immigration" that will be important if Republicans try to pass their own immigration bill, and as presidential candidates set their priorities for 2020.
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Friday, February 8, 2019

Backpack Challenge to raise awareness around homelessness

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 9:55 AM

COURTESY OF DONNA WINTZ
  • Courtesy of Donna Wintz
In honor of International Random Acts of Kindness Week, local nonprofits are challenging Colorado Springs residents to walk a mile (or any distance, really) in their homeless neighbor's shoes.

But walking around homeless usually means hauling around more than the clothes on your back and shoes on your feet. If you don't have a car, or a safe place for your stuff, you're probably carrying all of your personal belongings with you, too.

That's the premise of the Backpack Challenge, which runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 15. Participants are encouraged to wear a backpack for a day while they walk around Colorado Springs, then share their experience on social media, with the goal of promoting empathy and raising awareness of the challenges faced by homeless people in our community.


According to the event announcement, the idea was born when Donna Wintz, a volunteer for Westside Cares, was walking in Old Colorado City wearing a backpack. She noticed that some residents looked suspicious or disdainful as she passed.

“I think criminal activity in the city has homeowners on edge,” the announcement quotes Wintz as saying. “I understand the caution, but I don’t like my first interaction with a stranger to be negative, as if I am assumed a criminal simply because I’m wearing a backpack.”

Wintz spoke with Kristy Milligan, the CEO of nonprofit Westside Cares, about launching a campaign around the idea to coincide with International Random Acts of Kindness Week.

“There is tremendous need for caring services and housing in our community,” Milligan says in the announcement. “But the single greatest need is for a collective, community-wide commitment to seeing our neighbors in need as they actually are: our brothers and sisters.”

Other nonprofits promoting the challenge include Ecumenical Social Ministries, Urban Peak Colorado Springs, Homeward Pikes Peak, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Community Health Partnership.

Here's some guidelines for Backpack Challenge participants:

BACKPACK CHALLENGE
  • Backpack Challenge
Wintz, a graphic designer, created a "Try a Little Kindness" emblem in honor of the event, available on T-shirts, posters, mugs and more on RedBubble. She'll donate the proceeds to Westside Cares.

Businesses interested in obtaining the emblem for a fundraiser can contact Wintz at 970/682-0075 or donna@arttomarketdesign.com.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Colorado youth are drinking less but don't seem to know what they're vaping

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 4:00 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Colorado youth are drinking less alcohol, and aren't using marijuana any more than they used to before recreational weed was legalized, according to a new survey on substance use by Rise Above Colorado.

Good news? Sure. But the world of youth substance use is quite a bit more complicated, as researchers found when they analyzed more than 600 survey responses from kids ages 12 to 17.

You can read the full study below, or check out these highlights.

1. Most 12- to 17-year-olds who vape say they don't vape nicotine.

While Rise Above Colorado, a drug abuse prevention organization, has conducted similar surveys in the past, this was the first year it asked youth about their tobacco use. Colorado has a higher rate of teen vaping than any other state, according to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Youth who responded to Rise Above Colorado's survey reported lower rates of tobacco use than the CDC report showed, but that could be due to the slightly younger age demographic. Seven percent said they used a vape pen or e-cigarette, while 2 percent smoked cigarettes (the CDC report showed that 26.2 percent of Colorado high schoolers vaped, while 7 percent smoked cigarettes).

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado
But interestingly, the survey results suggest that some youth don't understand vape pens contain nicotine. Most (78 percent) said they vaped with nicotine-free flavoring, but almost all vape products sold in convenience stores contain nicotine, and Juul — which has the largest share of the e-cigarette market — does not sell any nicotine-free products.

Youth who smoked cigarettes or vaped were 10 times as likely to misuse prescription drugs, five times as likely to use marijuana and more than twice as likely to drink alcohol.

2. While marijuana use has remained steady and alcohol use has decreased, attitudes about these substances are changing.


In 2018, 37 percent of youth surveyed by Rise Above Colorado said they had drunk alcohol. That's a statistically significant decrease from 2016 levels (46 percent), bringing alcohol use to about the same level as in 2013, when 33 percent of youth responded affirmatively.

Marijuana use has remained stable since 2013. This year, 17 percent of young people said they'd tried it, compared with 15 percent in 2016 and 16 percent in 2013 — before the passage of Amendment 64.

However, Rise Above Colorado warns that changing perceptions about weed and alcohol could make some youth more vulnerable. This year, only about half of 12- to 17-year-olds said drinking once or twice posed a "moderate" risk or "great" risk, compared with 66 percent in 2016. For marijuana, the decrease in risk perception was even greater: 61 percent of youth felt trying weed once or twice was risky, a drop from 73 percent two years earlier. And while 86 percent of youth said they thought using marijuana regularly was risky in 2016, just 79 percent said that last year.

"A lower perception of risk is of concern because it can make youth more likely to use substances while a higher perception of risk can deter future use," reads a statement from Rise Above Colorado about the survey.

3. Youth are more likely to think misusing prescription drugs is dangerous.

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado
Just 4 percent of youth used prescription painkillers and/or stimulants to get high in 2018. While that's an increase from 2 percent in 2013, by one measure — risk perception — the outlook looks promising. Ten percent more young people (88 percent versus 78 percent in 2016) said they thought limited misuse of prescription drugs posed a "great" or "moderate" risk. Almost all youth (94 percent) thought regular use was risky, compared with 89 percent two years earlier.

Risk perception may be linked to family discussions about stimulants and painkillers. Slightly more than half of teens said they'd talked with their parents about the drugs, up from 36 percent in 2016.

4. Substance use continues to correlate with attitudes about school, mental health and safety.

Survey gatherers also asked youth to rate their levels of agreement with a set of "risk factor" statements — such as "I am confident that if I experimented with drugs, I could stop whenever I wanted" — and "protective factor" statements, like "Getting good grades is important to me."

For alcohol, the risk factor that had the strongest correlation with alcohol use was "My parents would be fine with me drinking beer once in a while." For weed and other drugs, it was "Experimenting with drugs is just part of being a teenager — it's not that big a deal."

For alcohol and marijuana, the protective factor "The schoolwork I am assigned is often meaningful and important to me" was linked most strongly to less substance use. Worryingly, statistically fewer youth (69 percent, compared with 75 percent in 2016) responded affirmatively to this statement.

When asked how many mentally difficult days they'd experienced in the past month (including "anxiety, stress, depression and problems with emotions") youth responded about the same as they did in 2016, with about 22 percent saying they had one or two hard days, 19 percent with three to five hard days, and 25 percent with six or more. Those in the latter category were more likely to have tried marijuana, alcohol and prescription painkillers.

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado

Many students also overestimated classmates' substance use, which Rise Above Colorado warns can be dangerous.

"The overestimation of prevalence among peers can lead to increased use, while closing the gap between perceived and reported use has been proven to decrease substance use over time," its statement reads.

Read the full study:

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tammy Terwelp to leave KRCC, lead Aspen Public Radio

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Tammy Terwelp, KRCC's general manager, will leave in January. - COURTESY KRCC
  • Courtesy KRCC
  • Tammy Terwelp, KRCC's general manager, will leave in January.

Tammy Terwelp, the general manager at Colorado College's 91.5 KRCC-FM, will leave for the mountains early next year.

"Some news to share... I will be heading to Aspen Public Radio as their new Executive Director effective January 28th," Terwelp posted on LinkedIn Dec. 10. "I am really excited to be doing what I love (public radio) in the heart of the most beautiful place on earth."

A job posting for Terwelp's current position is online. Andrea Chalfin, KRCC's managing editor, said Terwelp will remain at the station until January.

Terwelp was hired
as KRCC's general manager in fall of 2015. Before that, she served as director of content and programming for Pittsburg's 90.5 WESA, and in multiple roles at Chicago Public Media. She has more than two decades of experience in public broadcasting.

Her tenure at KRCC was marked by a changing media landscape. Terwelp canceled the award-winning local series "Wish We Were Here" in June 2016. She told the Indy at the time that her goal was to modernize the station, which she did by striking "unnecessary" line items from the budget, updating equipment and evaluating program scheduling. Nevertheless, she said canceling the show was the "worst day of my career."

In spring 2017, Colorado Public Radio moved into the Springs, meaning that KRCC had to work harder to differentiate itself.

But KRCC saw success under Terwelp. The station is raising funds to move into a larger building downtown with more community space, and won national recognition. Among the accolades: Wish We Were Here earned an Edward R. Murrow Award in the News Documentary category, reporter Dana Cronin got a regional Mark of Excellence Award from the Society for Professional Journalists for her feature on 14ers, and Jake Brownell won Best Feature Story from the Associated Press Television and Radio Association for a gun violence-related piece. In 2018, the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Colorado Society for Professional Journalists recognized then-KRCC reporter Bente Birkeland as Journalist of the Year "for her groundbreaking work covering the #MeToo movement and a culture of sexual harassment at Colorado’s capitol."

In a Dec. 5 interview with Aspen Public Radio reporter Alycin Bektesh, Terwelp said the following about her time at KRCC:

"Here at KRCC, I was coming into a situation that needed some attention...we had a mixed format here. With a city this size and this market, that's just not optimal for performance. It's been proven over and over with the metro market that we have, especially with competition with Colorado Public Radio ... I really wanted to change the focus to be an all-news station serving Southern Colorado. So that was just, it was a lot of work, if you can imagine, but it's been so rewarding — the increase in our listenership and the increase in our membership, and to talk to members who say, 'Thank you for covering that story. No one else was doing this.'"

Jane Turnis, vice president for communications at Colorado College, told the Indy:

Under Tammy’s leadership, 91.5 KRCC has grown tremendously, developing strong local news, locally produced features and the “Air Check” show, creating a great membership program, adding more NPR programming, achieving healthy underwriting, finding a future new home for the station, and continuing to provide a rich variety of music. While I wish we’d had her at KRCC longer, I also knew Tammy would be in demand. I am grateful for her excellent work here, and wish her all the best.
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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Paying for college in Colorado is tough, new analysis shows

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2018 at 7:10 PM

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How do you determine whether a higher education institution is affordable? According to the Lumina Foundation's "Rule of 10," students should be able to pay for college by saving 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years, and working 10 hours a week while in school.

Sounds reasonable enough, right? But only 52 percent of Colorado's universities are affordable by that definition, according to a new analysis based on statewide median household incomes for college students.

The analysis — conducted by the Lumina Foundation, a private foundation with the goal of expanding access to higher education, and Young Invincibles, a policy research and advocacy organization — applied the net prices of Colorado's institutions (cost of attendance minus grant aid) to the Rule of 10 to determine affordability for different groups of students.

According to the analysis, none of Colorado's institutions are affordable for students with housing insecurity, defined as those spending more than 35 percent of household income on rent. Eight percent of institutions are affordable for student parents and returning students, and 12 percent are affordable for student workers, the analysis found.

The median net cost of attending a four-year school in Colorado is $18,831 a year, the report found.

In order to afford that per the Rule of 10, you'd have to earn at least $18.11 an hour, or $37,660 a year, in discretionary income.

That's assuming you save 10 percent of your extra income for 10 years, work 10 hours a week during school, and contribute all of your discretionary income during school to your education.

Seeing as the state minimum wage is $10.20, that might be hard to do without a college degree.
And the least affordable private school in Colorado, the University of Denver, costs nearly twice that — $32,940 a year. The least affordable public school is Colorado School of Mines, at $25,097.

Colorado Mountain College had the most affordable net cost at $3,297 a year. The most affordable private school, Johnson & Wales University- Denver, costs $23,765.

How does Colorado compare to other states? While Young Invincibles doesn't have an overarching national analysis, it published fact sheets on Illinois and California the same day Colorado's were posted.

Young Invincibles considers 38 percent of California's institutions to be affordable for those making the student household median income, and only 27 percent of Illinois'. The median net cost of attending a four-year school is $18,989 in California and $27,708 in Illinois.

So, Colorado may not be all that bad...?
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Friday, November 16, 2018

District 11 says it's testing school floors for mercury vapor

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 6:39 PM

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Flooring in several Colorado Springs School District 11 schools have been found to release mercury vapors, the district said in a news release, but added, "There are no indications that the flooring is cause for any immediately health and environmental concerns or alarm."

Testing showed rubberized flooring of this kind at the following schools:

Doherty High School
Sabin Middle School (main gym floor was replaced with hardwood in August 2018)
Russell Middle School
Chipeta Elementary School
Fremont Elementary School
Grant Elementary School
Henry Elementary School
King Elementary School
RudyElementary School

However, to be safe, the district plans additional testing as "a necessary precaution."

Read the news release here:
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tony Wolusky wants to be on University of Colorado's Board of Regents

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Dr. Tony Wolusky - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
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After the Indy endorsements were released this week, we received a lot of email and phone calls.
There were a few thank yous in there, along with some complaints, and a few candidates disappointed that we hadn't made an endorsement in their race.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It was a very long ballot this year, and we just couldn't  examine every race.

Still, one call stood out. Dr. Tony Wolusky, the Democrat running for University of Colorado Board of Regents in District 5 (that's us) said he had been frustrated by the lack of attention on the race — especially since it was such a key role when it comes to controlling student debt.

OK, you got us Wolusky. We're pretty sympathetic to that issue. It's hard not to be considering how the heavy burden of debt steers a young person's life and opportunities. Plus the nine-member regent board, long dominated by Republicans, does a lot of important things like pick the next president of the CU system, for instance, and approve the budget, set policies, determine degree programs and (important to Wolusky's point) decide whether to raise, lower or freeze tuition.

While we still aren't endorsing in the race, we agreed to meet and talk with Wolusky about his race against Republican Chance Hill, and we encourage you to learn more about your regent candidates.

Here are a few things Wolusky wanted to point out:
• Big student debt loads (the average in Colorado in 2017 was estimated to be $26,095 by the Congress & Student Debt report) take young people years to pay off and create a lot of emotional pressure in their lives. Wolusky, who teaches at several colleges, has had students at Pikes Peak Community College who couldn't afford textbooks and says about half his students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are single moms. Food insecurity is incredibly common among his students. The CU system, he says, doesn't need to cost students so much. Perhaps it could cut back on salaries, some of which are near $1 million (and that isn't including the multimillion dollar contract given to CU's head coach).
He adds that the system spends too much on "prestige projects," such as huge figures expended on marketing, when it could use that money to help students. CU ranks 48th nationally in state funding for higher education. "They do a lot of things," he says, "that I think are a way to pat yourself on the back."
If the system could cut back on such expenses, he says, perhaps it could at least freeze tuition for a year instead of raising it. The system might also be able to offer students with heavy course loads some free classes each semester.

• Wolusky is a big proponent of diversity in the system. He notes that many young minority students are priced out of the system. That's a particular shame, he says, because one of the most enriching part of college should be learning about, and befriending people, who are different than you.

• Stopping sex assault on campus has to be a major priority, Wolusky says. He thinks we should educate students within the first month, focusing particularly on men. Wolusky says that in his time as an attorney he saw how deeply scarred victims of sexual assault are and wants to do whatever he can to prevent it.

• Wolusky says the current regents spend too much time on political issues, saying he's witnessed them discussing the need to classify conservative students as "minorities" and offer them the same support as, say, students of color. Another time, he says, the regents spent a long time talking about how to take the word " liberal" out of liberal arts.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS
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Here are a few things you should know about Wolusky's background:
• He went to the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force for 28 years, even teaching at the AFA as an Associate Professor of Law and serving as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Superintendent before retiring from active duty in Colorado Springs in 2004.

• He has five degrees: A bachelor's in public administration and international relations, a master's in education, a master's in international relations, a juris doctorate and a Ph.D. in education. (In contrast, Sue Sharkey, the current chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees the entire CU system, doesn't have any degree.)

• He teaches and has taught at many colleges including current stints at Pikes Peak Community College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

• He's an attorney with 30 years experience who has served both as a deputy district attorney and a public defender.

• He has four daughters and a grandson.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mental Health Colorado helps kids handle back-to-school stress

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

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When it comes to youth mental health, Colorado doesn't score well. Mental Health in America ranks it 48th in the country, in fact, according to a set of factors that include rates of youth depression, substance use and available services.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Nationally, it's the third leading cause).

And Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for overall suicides, with El Paso County among the hotspots. In 2016, there were 15 completed youth suicides, a jump from seven in 2014 and 14 in 2015, according to El Paso County Public Health.

These statistics are a dismal way to start the conversation about how to treat mental health in schools, but represent both a crisis and an opportunity, says Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

"The crisis is that kids are struggling and suffering and too often dying on account of untreated mental illness," Romanoff says. "And the opportunity I think here is to become a national leader. I mean Colorado is growing fast, but we’re still a relatively small state, and we could turn this state around. We could become a national leader in mental health."

Mental Health Colorado hopes to help the state edge closer to that goal through its School Mental Health Toolkit, a free online resource released in June meant for schools, districts, teachers and parents across the state. It outlines steps schools can take — such as screenings, suicide prevention and wellness plans — to combat mental illness and keep their students safe.

Romanoff, a former state House speaker, wants to make the toolkit available in every district around the state. With 178 districts and 1,800 schools, that's no small task. Mental Health Colorado is working with local allies to launch the toolkits in schools, and seeking grant money to make the strategies easier to implement.

There's a crucial difference between mental health challenges students face now, versus just a generation ago, Romanoff points out.

"In the era of social media where your life is often online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that can add to the stress," he says. "It used to be that your chances of being bullied might have gone down dramatically once you got out of school, and now that threat can follow you home and keep you up all night and drive you to some pretty bad consequences."

To help parents and kids understand and deal with that reality, Mental Health Colorado also provides free five-minute, doctor-approved online screenings. The informal questionnaires test for a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD and more.

There's also a questionnaire for parents, which helps them identify whether their child may be showing signs of mental illness.

Romanoff says he's heard from some districts that they've met with resistance from parents when trying to implement new strategies. For that reason, he says it's important to educate parents in particular about mental health.

"Parents don’t want their kids to be labeled or diagnosed or branded," he says. "Some parents feel like it’s a reflection on their skills as parents. What we’re trying to help people understand is that mental illness is not a character flaw. It’s a medical condition. And it doesn’t have to be a death sentence: It’s treatable."

Anyone — teens, parents, teachers, readers — experiencing a mental health crisis can call Colorado Crisis Service's free, confidential number at 844/493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.
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