SJK Testimony for SB20-089

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 plus kids in Jeffco, the 2nd largest school district in the state.

We support Senate Bill 20-089, and wish to thank Senators Danielson and Garcia, and Representative Gonzales-Gutierrez for taking this bold step.

Jeffco Public Schools is Jefferson County’s largest employer at over 14,000 employees.   In the past, Jeffco ranked as one of top school districts to work for in the state, but due to factors out of our control such as the 2008 Great Recession, a shrinking state share of funding, the Budget Stabilization Factor, and an electorate that does not regularly or easily vote in support of Mill Levy Overrides, we have fallen behind in what we can offer to pay our educators and school staff.

Jeffco was just recently able to increase teacher pay, now slightly above the “Minimum Teacher Salary Amount” as defined in this bill; but we struggle to meet a competitive hourly wage to offer our Classified employees (aka Education Support Professionals.)  As a result, we can’t find enough bus drivers or food service workers and the district has had to make adjustments in how these services and others are offered.  Our hourly employees are the backbone of the district, and the responsibility for a smooth running district falls to their shoulders.   We would love to see Jeffco Public Schools be able to take advantage of such a program.

Reality is, however, of the 178 school districts in our state, we know there are many, many districts who will need to be able to take advantage of this proposed grant program.  As everyone knows, we have a state-wide teacher shortage of over 3,000; and in many of our rural districts, we have principals who not only teach classes, but they also drive the bus, take out the trash, and coach.  We have to do something to make these positions attractive to workers and teachers.

When we talk about Colorado having a thriving economy, that really only applies to the communities along the front range, the rest of our state lags behind.  When we fail to provide an adequate qualified teaching staff, or a school with dedicated bus drivers, food service workers, etc., we fail our students.  They deserve better –  All 900,000 plus Colorado public school students.

We’d very much like to see Senate Bill 89 advance to the next step toward making this fund and grant program a sustainable source for so many of our school districts (including Jeffco Public Schools) that struggle to provide a liveable wage for educators and staff.

We encourage you to vote yes on SB89.

Thank you