We had a loss. Same thing happened in 2008. Educating Jeffco voters takes a lot of work because it is such a HUGE school district and 70-80% of people are not involved with our schools.
The Board of Education has a meeting this Thursday, November 17th to begin discussing impacts to our schools as a result of 3A and 3B not passing and those difficult conversations that must happen. We want to relay some things we’d like to see.
In 2012, we had a successful election that served our schools, though we still made cuts that year. It was a mill and bond that only stopped the bleeding following more than $63 million in program cuts and two years of staff taking a 3% pay cut to help keep cuts away from students. We then had a Board (now recalled) who diverted funds and ignored community budget surveys. Including one where more than 14,000 people participated with feedback, only to be ignored.
However, let’s go back to that 2012 recipe and talk this through. Prior to that Board deciding to put the measures on the ballot, the district held a Citizen’s Budget Academy. Real people in the community and parents participated in learning how the budget actually worked and how state funding worked. CLEARLY, we have an issue of education in the community.
Despite the great work of Great Education Colorado, the Colorado School Finance Project, the Colorado Fiscal Institute, PTA and other organizations and advocates throughout the state, there are people who don’t understand the funding formula. There is a disconnect – people still believe that since the economy is recovering and property taxes have increased that schools will be getting more money. People believe that because there are new home developments that schools will somehow just “happen.” We’d like to see the Board and district do more work to hold another Citizen’s Budget Academy and to advertise the sessions extensively.
Also prior to the 2012 ballot issues, the Board and district held Community Budget Forums. Oddly, there seemed to be a little push back on the importance of that this last year and the year before. This may be due to an almost entirely new staff at the Ed Center who didn’t witness the numbers of individuals at those forums. The second year of the (now-recalled) Board’s term showed less participation and we believe that was due to community outrage and knowledge that no one was going to listen and their time simply wasn’t valued.
While the FMP forums were held this year, they just didn’t explain the whole story and the format changed throughout the meetings as they resulted in more questions and a lot of misunderstandings. Communications to the entire county are greatly needed. Citizens need to be included in this process and discussions must happen.
In 2012, cutting music programs, teacher librarians, boundary changes, closing schools, cutting instructional coaches, and cuts to other services were the reality we faced. Though there is support for all of these services, 3A and 3B were not approved by the voters this year and we must participate in discussions that consider support for all 86,000 children.
These are very difficult conversations and we must bring our hearts and heads to the table in large numbers for this discussion. We must all remember that the mission for our schools is to educate ALL children.
Not everyone will be happy with the final decisions but this should only serve as incentive for those individuals to work hard to support education funding in the future. We call for the community budget forums to begin happening as soon as possible and to be held throughout the district with many opportunities for everyone to participate in a meaningful way. Those meetings can also evolve from initial input to final input as Board discussions continue.
Notifications about meetings, surveys, and opportunity for review of issues and feedback should be advertised in community media opportunities, Chambers of Commerce, the JEDC, all nonprofit organizations, and through every school in the district to all parents.
The 2012 campaign went forward because after all of these meetings occurred for almost two years, the community cried out for a mill and bond. The campaign volunteers worked hard to educate voters and get participants to volunteer for more than a year. Board meetings were packed with individuals and groups demanding ballot issues and pledging to volunteer, not simply advocating against cuts or changes to their individual schools. Our Board meetings are not well attended at this time.
There were few questions in 2012 about what the mill and bond would do for our students because the answers were communicated so very well and the community was informed and prepared for the repercussions. We knew what was at stake.
Jeffco is so large, it’s only now, AFTER the election, that many individuals are realizing what happened. We have seen an extreme increase in those following our social media accounts and signing up for our newsletter.
In 2012, Citizens for Jeffco Schools called for many volunteers and there were coordinators for every effort. There were 12 community walks and 22 nights of phone banking. Here are a few messages that came from that campaign:
“If every school in Jeffco would SEND JUST FOUR (4) PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, NEIGHBORS, PRINCIPALS, ETC. to walk – we would hit our numbers for the Citizens for Jeffco Schools commitment of 40 walkers per articulation area.”
“We have 22 nights of Phone Banking, and need approximately 50 callers PER NIGHT. This can easily be filled by schools committing to staff one of our various locations with 6-12 callers.”
Those numbers were accomplished by the community at nearly every walk and phone bank. The community came together, just like they did in 2015. There were so many people participating that nearly every walk was like a rally.
The election season and campaign are over but we still need volunteers to help spread the message and inform their friends. If you are not already volunteering for SJK and are willing to be a school rep for us, please contact us! There’s not a lot of work other than communicating and helping to bring in more volunteers for future efforts.
To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To receive the newsletter, email email@example.com.
The needs won’t go away as we still have more than 86,000 students who need a quality education and our Jeffco kids are just as adorable as those in districts that passed their ballot issues to serve students.
- Citizen’s Budget Academy
- Community Budget Forums
- Vast Communication