Gov. John Hickenlooper today wove repeated references to education into a State of the state speech that focused on entrepreneurship, economic development and improving the efficiency of state government.

Colorado CapitolHickenlooper also made several aspirational calls “to make Colorado the best state in the nation” during the 40-minute speech in a packed House chamber at the Capitol. He said entrepreneurship, efficient government and partisan cooperation can make the state an example for the nation and the world.

He also said, “Colorado kids must be educated” not just for jobs but because “the gift of education lasts a lifetime.”

The governor referenced two specific areas of education legislation in his remarks:

Early childhood: “We seek your support in consolidating early childhood services under one roof,” referring to a bill that would centralize most such agencies in the Department of Human Services.

“We must develop early childhood strategies” to improve third-grade literacy, he said, adding that Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is preparing a plan for release in early February. “We are working on bipartisan legislation to make Colorado a national model for early literacy.”

The state recently lost a bid for $60 million in federal early learning funds, and the governor made no mention of funding in his speech.

Educator effectiveness: Hickenlooper said, “We need your support to pass legislation approving” rules to implement the educator evaluation system laid out by Senate Bill 10-191. (The rules measure, House Bill 12-1001, is expected to pass easily.) The governor also asked legislator support of a request for $7.7 million to fund implementation work in the Department of Education.

“Being a great teacher is hard work. Thank you to them, and thank you to every teacher,” Hickenlooper said.

Here’s what the governor had to say on other matters of interest to education:

State budget: “Working together we have made significant progress stabilizing our state budget, [but] we are still in rough water.” Hickenlooper said. He mentioned his belief that continued partial suspension of a senior citizen property tax exemption is needed to balance the 2012-13 budget.

School funding: Citing pressures on the state budget, including increased school enrollment, Hickenlooper also mentioned the ruling against the state in the Lobato school funding lawsuit. “The question of finding additional revenue for education is one of the greatest budget challenges we have,” but he noted voters last year defeated Proposition 103, which would have raised state taxes to fund school and colleges. “That’s one reason job growth is so important” to raise state revenues, he said.

Pensions and state workers: While he said he’s “mindful” of the obligation to ensure the Public Employees’ Retirement Association “is both sustainable and stable,” Hickenlooper said no administration proposals are currently planned to change PERA, which manages retirement funds for all state teachers and many other government workers.

He did say he’s working with state employee groups on civil service reforms to “go to the ballot this year.”

Higher education: Hickenlooper’s only reference was to the possibility that sale of the state-chartered Pinnacol Assurance workers’ comp firm could raise money for scholarships.

Colorado’s future: Hickenlooper only briefly referenced TBD Colorado, his planned effort to engage Coloradans in statewide discussions about the state’s future. “In the coming weeks you’ll hear more details,” he said. (Get background in this story.)

Read the text of the speech here. Video of the speech will be available later on the legislative website.