Information About Funding, ICYMI

In case you don’t follow the news from the district, these links may be of interest to everyone in Jeffco as they pertain to our budget:

Thanks to Dr. Glass for sharing and communicating so regularly!

“Based on our current assumptions today, Jeffco Public Schools is planning to receive around $37 million in new funds through the School Finance Act. This is determined entirely by the legislature, and this assumption can change. We move about $4 million of this to our charter schools (their proportionate share), which leaves us around $33 million in new funding for next year. 

“$33 million sounds like (and is) a lot of money. However, given the size of Jeffco Public Schools, we have to put it into context. Jeffco’s General Fund, which is the source from which most major expenses are paid (including things like how many teachers we have and their compensation), is currently $698 million. Therefore, this added $33 million is around a 4.7% increase.

“We are appreciative of efforts at the legislature to bring these new funds to Jeffco. We also appreciate the advocacy people in our community have shown, making sure our legislators understand that education is a priority.

“These potential new funds drop into backfilling a big budget hole created in school funding during the Great Recession that has never been refilled. Since 2010, Jeffco Public Schools has been underfunded $642 million compared to pre-recession levels. For this current budget year alone, our schools are being underfunded $75 million compared to pre-recession levels. While we are appreciative of potential new funds coming in this year, we also have to consider what was lost and not replaced, and that Colorado’s school funding level is weak nationally compared to other states.

“The new $33 million also goes quickly when considering an organization the size of Jeffco Public Schools. Here are some areas we are looking at for next year, which are still under negotiation and pending legislative action.

  • Increasing compensation for our employees at about 2.7% to keep up with inflation and recognize their experience: $14.8 million.
  • A 1% additional cost of living adjustment for employees, working to catch them up from years of pay freezes and reductions: $5.6 million.
  • Potential increases to the PERA retirement system: $4.7 million.
  • Keeping current building funds and staffing levels in place: $3.7 million.
  • Increased costs for insurance, utilities, technology, and facilities upkeep: $2 million.
  • Funding the district’s innovation acceleration fund: $1 million.

“I hope this gives you some idea of where these funds could go and some of the choices we will need to make this spring to bring a final budget to the Board of Education for approval.

“This $33 million in additional funding is by no means a lock. The legislature has some other priorities that are competing for finite resources. Things such as transportation, healthcare, higher education, and corrections are all important and big-ticket items. However, our kids matter too – and it is important that we continue to impress on our honorable legislators the importance of meeting our obligations to our kids and community when it comes to adequate school funding.”

“How can schools increase funding? Of course, one way is through action by the state legislature. This is the reason Jeffco Public Schools teachers and staff are rallying at the capitol next Thursday. 

“However, we don’t necessarily have to wait for the state to address our local funding concerns. Looking ahead to this fall, we see three possibilities:

“Bonds – these are basically voter-approved loans, and are only used for construction and capital improvements. Voter approval allows the district to borrow money, then property taxes repay the debt over time, usually 20 years. In 2012 Jeffco passed a bond for $99 million for “warm, safe, and dry” projects. In 2016 the $535 million bond ballot issue did not pass. That same year, Denver Public Schools (the district nearest Jeffco regarding size) did pass a $572 million bond that is currently renovating and improving their schools. Since the average age of our buildings now over 50 years, there are a lot of needs here in Jeffco we will have to consider.

“Mill levy override – this is a property tax that can take on several forms (flat dollar amount, adjusts for inflation, specific uses can be defined) but there is a limit; only 25% over what the state provides may be assessed locally. The funds may be used for ongoing expenses such as educator and staff compensation, lower class sizes, and learning materials. Jeffco can currently add up to about $75 million based on that limit. Jeffco last passed a mill in 2012. Voters did not pass the 2016 $33 million mill levy override request. Again as a measure of comparison, that same year Denver Public Schools passed a mill levy override which added $56.6 million to their annual operating budget.

“Initiative 93 – this is a constitutional amendment which would add $1.6 billion statewide to education funding with a progressive income tax for those with a household income of over $150,000 annually and C-corporations. If the initiative makes the ballot (signatures are now being collected) and passes, Jeffco’s portion would be between $130-$160 million per year, depending on how it is divided up by the legislature. The initiative has some earmarks for early childhood education and full-day kindergarten. The initiative also provides some residential property tax relief and substantial commercial property tax relief.”

Remember to contact us if you need to sign a petition for this Initiative

“We will be engaging with the community over the spring and summer to get more clarity on what our community wants to do. Ultimately, our Board of Education will decide on whether local K-12 funding issues will be placed on the November 2018 ballot in Jefferson County, and Initiative 93 will only be on the ballot if enough signatures are collected.

“How public schools are funded in Colorado can be confusing, but one thing is clear. Colorado K-12 public education per pupil spending ranks between 40th – 47th in the nation and Colorado teacher salaries rank 46nd in the nation. Also, marijuana taxes have proven to be all smoke when it comes to addressing our real funding needs. While the marijuana funds have added some dollars for construction projects and a few other services, the overall impact has been underwhelming.

“Over the past several months, school superintendents across Colorado have been working in partnership with school boards and community groups to call attention to the dire public school funding issues that plague our state. We strongly believe that our students, our communities, and our educators should receive the supports and compensation they deserve.

“Since April 16, 2018, we have seen teachers and other educators in school districts around the state take action to fight for fair and equitable state funding. Teachers wearing “Red for Ed,” walking into schools together, and rallying at the state capitol are among some of those more visible actions. We are seeing more school districts needing to amend student contact days as teachers take unpaid, personal and annual leave in calling attention to widely shared concerns with regard to school funding in Colorado.

“As superintendents representing districts that have closed for a day, will be closing for a day, or at some point will see large scale teacher actions occurring in support of increased school funding in Colorado, we would like to offer the following information for your consideration:

• Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding.
• In Colorado, we fund our students at an average of $2,500 per student less than the national average – not the upper end of the scale – average.
• Only two states, Oklahoma and Arizona, spend less than Colorado on services for students with special needs.
• Despite constitutional protections designed to protect public school funding in Colorado, public schools have been underfunded by billions of dollars since 2008.
• Teacher salaries in Colorado are below the national average by 15.2%.
• 95 percent of teacher salaries are below the standard of living in rural Colorado.
• Colorado is experiencing a significant teacher shortage. This is compounded in that close to 20% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, citing low pay and low public regard as two leading reasons for leaving the profession.
• It is estimated that there is close to $18 billion dollars in school construction needs across the state.

“Our teachers’ voices deserve to be heard in the fight for fair and equitable state funding. We honor our teachers, and all of the educators who serve our students and our communities each day. As they take action over the next several days, and into the future, we urge parents and all concerned Coloradans to contact state legislators to ask them to increase funding for K-12 education in Colorado. Along with educators, your voice matters, and your calls and emails make a difference at the Capitol.”

Rico Munn
Aurora Public Schools

Cindy Stevenson
Boulder Valley School District

Harry Bull
Cherry Creek School District

Roslin Marshall
Clear Creek School District

Tom Boasberg
Denver Public Schools

Chris Fiedler
District 27J

Wendy Rubin
Englewood Schools

David S. MacKenzie
Gilpin County School District

Jason E. Glass
Jeffco Public Schools

Brian Ewert
Littleton Public Schools

Charlotte Cianco
Mapleton Schools

Brenda Krage
Platte Canyon School District

Sandra Smyser
Poudre School District

Michael Clough
Sheridan Schools

Stan Scheer
Thompson School District

Pamela Swanson
Westminster Public Schools

Note: Special thanks to Wendy Rubin and Englewood Schools for their leadership on this statement.