Letter to the Editor: School funding woes affect all residents

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Dear Editor:
As a community, Meeker is sitting at a crossroads. We are about to decide if we are going to support a mediocre school district or strive for a great school district. We find ourselves with a huge budget shortfall and no acceptable way to make enough budget cuts to cover this.
The truth of the matter is, the financial situation that we find ourselves in is through no fault of our own or our administration’s. It is the consequence of a complicated state-level finance formula and interpretation of laws and amendments by our state leaders. These things need to be addressed and changed for the benefit of all Colorado public schools. However, that will take time and time we do not have.
If we were to make the necessary cuts we would have to cut more than 12 teacher positions, and that is in conjunction with the estimated savings of going to a four-day school week and the elimination of a reception/secretary position at the administration building.
Cutting 12 teacher positions would be like eliminating all the teachers at the high school, obviously something we cannot do.
I, for one, do not believe that our curriculum is overly extensive. I would actually like to see more options offered. There is no way to cut a budget that is already too lean and not hurt academic achievement further.
Are there places where we can revamp and reorganize? I’m sure there are. What if we, as parents and citizens, decided instead of continual cuts we said “enough” and went the other direction. What if we decided instead of a “C” rated school we wanted an “A+” rated school.
What if instead of cutting positions and programs, we added them?
I respectfully disagree with some of our administrators and I’m sure, some teachers, when I express my desire to move away from standards-based education. I would rather we hire more quality teachers and allow them all (current and new) to teach to their strengths.
I would rather our teachers be allowed to use their own ideas and creativity to educate their students rather than preparing them to meet standards in testing. I would rather see five days of school instead of four because research is inconclusive on which is better, and I feel that the more teacher/student contact time, the better chance for academic achievement.
Most of all, I want our children to learn. I want them to graduate and achieve whatever goals they may have and for us to know that for the first 12+ years, we here in Meeker did our part to make sure they were prepared and inspired.
We are fortunate to have many high-quality, dedicated teachers. We have teachers who go beyond the classroom to help our kids. I have never seen or experienced a teacher saying “no” when a parent or student has asked for help. I have seen the opposite, time and time again.
Currently, I have an eighth grader and a junior in college. Both have benefited and still do from these dedicated professionals.
The question will be, how do we not only fund a huge deficit but also increase our budget. Currently, our school district has a $3.2 million end-of-fund balance that can be used at their discretion, a “rainy day fund” so to speak. I believe now is the time to tap into this fund.
Several years ago, we, as taxpayers, voted to not limit revenues to our special districts. The wants and desires of the taxpayers then and the taxpayers now, I believe, have changed. Some of our special districts have already been pro-active and offered assistance to our school district and ways they can help offset costs. Other special districts are currently working with the school district to see what they can do to help.
I am not here to vilify the special districts; they have the task of spending and managing the money we have voted to give them. If we want to see some of those funds redirected to our school district, we need to make phone calls, set up meetings and speak to board members to let them know our wishes.
It is difficult to attend meetings, especially of all the special districts, but we can pick up a phone. This help needs to come quickly. If it requires emergency meetings on the part of the special districts, so be it. If it requires some creative out-of-the-box thinking, I applaud it. If it takes a ballot initiative, we need to get busy.
We need to look at ways to get perpetual funding to our schools. In a state that ranks 43rd in public school funding, which is abysmal, we need to make changes. In many states where I have lived, my property taxes were much higher, the bulk of which went to schools. There are many here in Meeker who have lived elsewhere and can attest to this.
I’m not saying raise our property taxes; I think we can find other ways. I am saying that it takes money to have great schools, and this is the way other states do this.
Unfortunately most of this conversation is about money and the lack of it. In actuality, it is about our children and us. This is not just a problem for people with children in school. We all should be interested in the education of our kids.
One of these kids may end up being the adult that cures your relative’s cancer, exposes you to a new piece of music, literature or art, develops a clean source of energy, cooks your lunch in your favorite restaurant, is your town trustee, your president or a neighbor that helps you when you need it. They are the future citizens and caretakers of our towns, countries and world. We should all be very interested and invested in the type of education they are getting.
Michelle Morgan