Friday, we had the opportunity to participate in Great Education Colorado’s 2017 Action Summit https://www.greateducation.org/get-involved/events/conference/ where they introduced the Colorado Education Network CEN.
Along with a few hundred friends!
We’d like to invite you to check out the CEN Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoEducationNetwork/ as well as the CEN website. http://coloradoeducationnetwork.org
As is traditional for Great Ed, the focus was (and continues to be) on the funding (rather lack of funding) of our K-12 schools in Colorado. If you attended, you heard experts on the issues present timely information about the current discussion happening at the Capitol on our state budget; learned about some of the challenges in our rural school districts and smaller, higher poverty school districts; and you had the ability to network with folks from communities around the front range, as well as some rural communities – all experiencing many of the same challenges.
If you weren’t able to attend, we’d like to share some of the important information and resources we came away with.
CEN – Colorado Education Network
We continue to hear about the Gordian Knot in our constitution. This year, it’s an even greater mess because our legislature is dropping the Property Assessment Rate from 7.96% to 7.2%. Yay! Lower taxes, you might say, but not so fast; the implications this will have on our school funding, as well as our metro services such as fire districts, will be devastating. So, lower taxes are not such a good thing. Watch for our upcoming article about the Gallagher Amendment.
We got to learn more about the struggles of our partners in rural Colorado, where their communities are separated not by a few miles, but many miles, their on-going struggle to attract teachers, and so many more challenges.
Did you know that of the 178 school districts in Colorado, 75% of them are rural school districts? But of those 178, 75% of the students come from only 20 school districts?
Even though we all arrived at the D.U. Driscoll Ballroom from different communities, positions within the public education sector (attendees included school board members, former legislators, superintendents, parent advocates, teacher advocates, community members, and students), the one thing we all had in common and agreed on was that we value public education, we believe in the Promise of Colorado, namely our children and their future. Yet, the inequities that currently exist in our state when it comes to funding our schools continue to grow. That’s something few of us are aware of, or think about.
Try the Mission Possible tool to balance the budget and take a look at the funding facts here:
Here’s an example:
3 metro school districts have a wide range in what they can fund from their local level and require (backfilled) from the state:
- Aurora Public Schools funds only 12% from their local level
- Boulder Public Schools is able to fund 72% from their local level
- Douglas County Public Schools funds 34% from their local level
In each case, the balance is made up by the state.
In Jeffco, we rely on the state for 46% of our funding, and 47% of our funding comes from property taxes. http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/finance/documents/Dollars%20&%20Sense%202016-2017%20FINALweb.pdf
With all this valuable information, one of the most important pieces is to figure out:
- How do we share this information with other parents, teachers and community members?
We had the opportunity to participate in a panel for a Breakout Session on just such a topic. The panel included a Teacher Advocate, a School Board member and member of CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards), a Superintendent from a rural school district, and SJK as a Parent Advocate.
What did we learn that was key? Teachers have a lot of credibility when they talk about what happens in their classrooms, what they want to do for their students, and what they are missing that would enable them to do it. Example: I’d like to have our class participate in ____________________________, but we don’t have the funding to cover it, so we will just make do with ________________________.
Superintendents and school board members both have the responsibility of balancing their district’s budget and figuring out what their needs are for all of their district schools, and sharing what role the state and local funding play.
But most importantly, we discussed how Parents Have the Power.
Parents are under no constraints when it comes to asking questions about how their specific school and programs are impacted by district and state funding shortfalls. Often, teachers and school staff maybe hesitant to start these conversations during School Accountability meetings or PTA meetings (especially if there’s something on the ballot) for fear of retribution (sometimes from folks who are looking for an opportunity to criticize staff). But parents CAN start these conversations. And when we come armed with facts and credible resources, others begin to listen.
Parent and community advocates are key to changing this downward spiral our state is in when it comes to funding public education.
Please consider joining the Colorado Education Network. Make sure you read and share the information Support Jeffco Kids provides. Our greatest strength is that we are parents, grandparents and community members who are not afraid to share factual credible information, and our desire to preserve our children’s future.
“They say, if you want to know what a community values, look at how they treat their children.”
How do you want others to view Jeffco’s values?
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