A huge thanks to Jonna for testifying on our behalf at the Interim School Finance Committee meeting! Following is the testimony she gave for Support Jeffco Kids.
Thank you Chairman Garnett and committee members. My name is Jonna Levine, I am co-chair/co-founder of Support Jeffco Kids. Our focus is on the importance of supporting public education for ALL 86,000 kids in Jeffco, the 2nd largest school district in the state, which makes up almost a 10th of the state’s student population in public schools.
We appreciate the time and effort by this committee to explore or study how to “most accurately meet the educational needs of our students through the funding of education in Colorado”. And, as you assemble your legislative recommendations to your colleagues, we’d like to ask that you be guided by the key principle that public, taxpayer dollars for public education must stay in public schools, and that you fund our students who choose public schools adequately and equitably.
We strongly oppose any changes to the Colorado School Finance Act or public school funding in Colorado that would use public, taxpayer dollars for vouchers, tax credits, Education Savings Accounts, or any other tool used for privatizing public education.
And finally, we believe your true primary focus should be on how to increase funding for our public schools. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that in Colorado, Our public school students are funded at $2,685 per student below the national average. To continue to look at how to re-slice the pie that we already know is way too small is simply irresponsible.
Colorado has one of the best economies in the nation, ranked on top in overall state economy and state job market, yet we continue to be plagued by the Budget Stabilization Factor – dollars owed to our public education system – to the tune of $830 million. In some school districts, a starting teacher salary would be classified as poverty level earnings, and 49% of our state’s school districts are on or have schools on a 4 day school week.
In Colorado we fund our students well below our neighboring states – $8,000 per pupil below Wyoming, $4,500 per pupil below Nebraska, and $2100 per pupil below Kansas.
Something needs to change – and it’s not how to redistribute funding that falls short.
I leave you with this thought: “They say, if you want to know what a community values, look at how its children are treated. If you want a sense of what a community hopes for the future, look at how it values its schools.”