Congressman Polis Visits to Discuss Local Issues

Josh Behrens, Contributing Writer

Local Congressman Jared Polis visited Monarch High School Wednesday evening from Washington, DC to discuss education reform and what the next congressional session may hold. Polis, a Democrat, was elected in 2008 as the Second Colorado District Representative, which encompasses everything from Northglenn to Vail. He was an entrepreneur who started Blue Mountain Arts, an online greeting card company, and ProFlowers, an online florist. He later joined the Colorado Board of Education from 2001-2007 before becoming one of the only openly gay congressman. His philanthropic efforts have won him great acclaim as he has created many efforts to support and develop education all across the country, and especially here in Colorado.

The first topic Polis talked about was the efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs in the greater Boulder area, and Colorado as a whole. Polis started an organization called Techstars, in which new start ups are put through a three month intensive process to really invigorate their business and make them as successful as possible. Using this idea of supporting new businesses, he discussed the need to aid these businesses throughout America, particularly the Rust Belt, to help take our economy to the next level and feed off of the “startup culture” found in America these days. Polis also explained the outdated patent system and the need to modernize the system to fit our world. Many patents for technology such as software and biological material are being abused to bully the very same small businesses he is trying to support. However, he said it will be a long process with baby steps beginning to take shape in the next few years.

The majority of the night was spent examining the state of education throughout the country, and the actions that the congressman plans to take in order to improve the future outlook of that sector. Polis talked about No Child Left Behind, and the defective system used to fund schools, but also how he thinks the transparency gained into how students are performing will help improve our education system as a whole. He explained that using the data obtained from state-wide tests, such as CSAP and TCAP, education can start becoming less of a guessing game and more of an exact science.

Polis hopes to introduce a new education bill this session that will address many of these issues as well as some other items such as funding computer science as an academic class and not as an elective. He also hopes to propose a bill that will overhaul the immigration system, offering a “startup visa” to anyone who has raised capital for a business and plans on employing at least five Americans, and making it easier for foreign college students with student visas to stay in the US after their visa is up.

Polis is hopeful for meaningful (but admittedly slow) change his next year in Congress.