The 2019 Colorado legislative session begins tomorrow, January 4th. Today happens to be SJK’s 5th anniversary and we’re grateful that we’ve continued to grow and make a difference, thanks to so many supporters and volunteers. Our advocacy will continue to grow and our involvement in coalitions will also continue with several plans we have for 2019.
While it’s an exciting day for SJK and the start of the legislative session is joyously celebrated at the Capitol, we have to acknowledge and keep reminding everyone there’s also no new funding available.
We anticipate that there will be many more opportunities to “do the right thing” for public education and better provide for the education of our students. Though we will miss Senator Andy Kerr (term limited but loved and appreciated forever) and Senator Rachel Zenzinger (now Chair of the Joint Budget Committee), we know for certain that the Senate Education Committee meetings will be much less abrasive and much less offensive and we are very excited about that! Thankfully, Jeffco has strong representation on the education committees with a new Senator and Representative involved. Senator Tammy Story will serve on Senate Education and Representative Lisa Cutter will serve on House Education, both have been tremendous public education advocates and we look forward to their service and working with them.
Great Education sent an email earlier today about continuing our coalition work and advocating for public education, which we’ll absolutely continue to do again this year (we hope you’ll join us!) One note in that email certainly resonates with us regarding any potential legislation. “We will also be focusing on ensuring that representatives consider the following questions when they’re looking at school funding bills: Is it equitable? Is it an unfunded mandate? Is this funding going to pit one student population against another?”
Those questions are crucial. Equity has been an ongoing issue in public education in Colorado and due to the DE-funding of education in Colorado and the School Finance Act not being updated since 1994, that inequity has grown hugely. You may remember that 171 of Colorado’s 178 superintendents came together with a new School Finance Act just last year. You can read more about that Bill here – http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/superintendents-formula/
As far as public education goes, these superintendents are the subject matter experts on school finance in Colorado as well as the impacts funding has on serving our neediest students, special education students, gifted and talented students, mental health needs, and safety and security concerns in each district via their very qualified staff. It is most certainly crucial for our legislators to realize this but not all do and that has severe implications on services to our children when these disconnects exist. Teachers, education staff, students, and engaged parents also have lots of information as to what our schools need so we must advocate together.
We can endure no more unfunded mandates to public education. Ideas are often thrown around at the Capitol and while some are great ideas, they create even more problems when legislation is passed without funding, which has happened far too often in Colorado. With no new revenue for the Colorado budget, our legislators have limited options. They can cut previous mandates that might save districts funds to use on other needed services. They can allocate funding from other areas of the budget. They can avoid passing legislation that would impact district budgets. They can also refer measures to voters to increase funding.
What we can’t continue to do is “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” which is how we’ve been operating in Colorado. It’s not good for kids and it’s not good for staff. We’re losing quality educators at alarming rates. “Teachers, janitors and other education professionals departed their jobs at an “average rate of 83 per 10,000 a month” in the first 10 months of 2018. This figure denotes the fastest resignation rate since the Department of Labor began its measurements in 2001.” https://www.newsweek.com/public-school-employees-leaving-jobs-record-rate-1274121?fbclid=IwAR2XO3M-PUKIM2Uc4taRczrgeYJ2K_5DqJeE5JSllRqF7LtJLtiPxW82K6A
We are grateful that we have so many Jeffco legislators who listen to their constituents. We’ll need your help to ensure that they’re all ready to do the right thing, have accurate information about impacts to our schools and students, and feel empowered by our advocacy.
With that in mind, SJK is launching our Advocacy Corner. We’ll have regular advocacy missions for you to participate in no matter your availability and time constraints. We’ll have opportunities to participate whether you are available to testify at the Capitol, make calls, and/or write emails. We’ll walk you through it, so don’t be nervous if you’ve not participated before!
Interested in increasing your advocacy to make a real difference? Sign up here!
Only those who have signed up to participate in Advocacy Corner will receive this information.
***Our regular newsletter will continue to go out quarterly. We don’t sell our lists to anyone and we don’t spam, we also dislike a full email box asking only for donations.