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MEEKER I Meeker Superintendent of Schools Chris Selle participated Jan. 14 in a news conference by state school superintendents at the State Capitol, urging the Legislature to properly fund public schools.
Several business leaders and other officials also participated, supporting the superintendents. Rangely Superintendent of Schools Matt Scoggins was not able to attend but is a signatory on the letter, which was publicly delivered. Selle reports that more than 60 superintendents did attend while 167 of 178 district superintendents had signed the letter.
Selle thought the event was very well attended and well covered by the media. He said the crowd included other supporters, legislators, local school board members, state board of education members and local community members, parents and teachers that likely approached, if not exceeded, 500 individuals.
Selle said that Great Education Colorado (www.greateducation.org) was truly the driving force behind organizing the event.
The request delivered by the superintendents, “Colorado Superintendent’s Advocacy for Adequate School Funding,” said they all have a professional and moral obligation to deliver an effective education to each and every child in Colorado through an excellent public school system. In order to do so, Colorado schools “must receive stable and adequate funding,” they said.
“We hold firmly to the belief that voters’ intent in passing Amendment 23 [in 2000] was for schools to realize year-over-year funding increases of at least inflation plus student growth,” their letter said. “…and this intent needs to be reflected in the state’s fiscal year 2016-17 budget and supported by all legislation” of the 2016 General Assembly.
Boulder Valley Schools Superintendent Bruce Messinger led the group, which specifically asked for the following: that the intent of the 2015 School Finance Act to not reduce funding for the next year, despite increased assessed property values and improved other factors including statewide economic forecasts and statewide enrollment changes be upheld; that a supplemental appropriation be made to ensure per-pupil funding is not reduced due to enrollment growth; that the negative factor applied for the next year not be increased; and that the total K-12 funding be increased at least by the rate of inflation.
The superintendents also voiced their support for the reclassification of the state’s hospital-provider fees to “enterprise fund” status as a short-term measure to provide additional funding for Colorado’s schools.
State Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Jefferson County, greeted the group saying, “Our property values, our economy, our way of life in Colorado depends on having a robust and well-funded 21st century education system, and we’re just not getting it done so far.”
Shannon Bird, a Westminster City Council member, participated in the event, and said, “I’ve been told there’s nothing that could be done [about school funding]. Well, I don’t believe this. Our legislators are smart people who are elected to solve tough problems.”
Selle told the Herald Times, “There is no question that K-12 education in Colorado is underfunded. We are in the bottom 10 percent of states in the nation on a per-pupil funding basis and more than $2,000 below the national average for per-pupil funding.
“The road to adequate funding for Colorado’s school children will be difficult, but I know there are superintendents across the state who are willing to work with our legislators to find the needed solutions to provide adequate resources for our school children,” he said. “In our school district, a number of programs and resources have been cut over the past several years to address inadequate funding. Each of those cuts have a negative impact on student learning in our schools.
“Though not true for all areas in Colorado, the statewide economy as a whole is strong,” Selle said. “Yet, we are still faced with potential cuts to K-12 education funding because of constraints in the Colorado Constitution. Intuitively, that makes no sense. It is my hope that by working together, superintendents, legislators, parents and educators will provide solutions so we can increase resources for our schools that will benefit student learning in times of strong economic growth such as this.”
School funding issues probably won’t be taken up in the Legislature until March.