The Hon. Barbara O’Brien is president of Get Smart Schools, a Colorado nonprofit that trains principals to run high performing schools in low income neighborhoods. She is also National Policy Director for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Prior to this, she was Lieutenant Governor of Colorado from 2007-2011, a Senior Policy Fellow at the Piton Foundation and president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign for sixteen years.
As Lt. Governor, O’Brien’s portfolio included chairing the Colorado P-20 Education Coordinating Council, Colorado Space Coalition, Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, Task Force on the Creative Economy, Main Street Initiative, and the Race to the Top initiative. O’Brien also provided expert advice and legislative advocacy that resulted in laws to revise content standards from preschool through high school, establish new state assessments, create a Council on Educator Effectiveness, create the opportunity for high school students to earn both a high school diploma and a community college degree while still in high school, eliminate the waiting list for preschool for low income children, and create the state’s first full-day kindergarten program.
O’Brien was president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC), a statewide public policy and advocacy nonprofit organization, from 1990-2006. Under her leadership, the CCC produced major statewide policy initiatives that included creating the Colorado Preschool Program, Child Health Program, funding for school based health clinics, and charter schools,. She also played a lead role in two successful statewide ballot initiatives that restored funding for public schools and increased the tax on tobacco with the revenue ear-marked for health care for uninsured kids and adults.
O’Brien believes that while we have made strides here in Denver, we still have a long way to go in guaranteeing that every child has access to a quality public education.