Rural schools to air views

Caucus will get 10 minutes before education board

Paula Stephenson will have to get a lot out of 10 minutes.

The Colorado Rural Schools Caucus, of which Stephenson is the executive director, is scheduled to have that amount of time to address the board of directors for the Colorado Commission on Higher Educ-ation at the board's meeting Thursday in Denver. The caucus lobbies for the interests of rural schools and has asked the board for time to express concerns with planned college entrance requirements that Stephenson has said would strain small school budgets.

The requirements are part of a program designed by the commission in 2003 that gradually implements class requirements for high school students hoping to enter a four-year public college or university in Colorado.

An increase of those requirements is scheduled to begin in September for students who will graduate from high school in 2010.

"We already have an extreme teacher shortage in math, science and foreign languages," Stephenson has said. "Given that it's harder to attract and retain teachers in rural districts, we just won't be able to staff those positions (at many rural high schools)."

Thursday's meeting is at 10 a.m. at Denver University, in the Community Room of Craig Hall.

Stephenson said community support, from caucus members and the interested public, will be invaluable at the meeting.

"We understand traveling to Denver for a 10-minute meeting is a lot to ask of our members, but this is important," Stephenson said. "If you will be in the area, we would love for you to attend and show your support."

Stephenson, former president of the Steamboat Springs School Board, represents 115 rural school districts at the Capitol in Denver, where she works three days a week during the legislative session.

The Colorado Rural Schools Caucus began six years ago with help from Cyndy Simms, former superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail

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