by Peter Grady –
While Greeley/Evans District 6 has formed an exploratory committee about a bond issue this November, the Jeffco school district has already done so, however critics say very little funding will actually go to benefit students.
Earlier this month, the Jeffco school board voted 4-1 to put a bond and mill issue on the November 2012 ballot. The board is asking district residents for a $39 million revenue increase and a $99 million bond to increase funding to the district.
Officials claim that the district could be forced to make $43.5 million in budget cuts next year, including cutting programs and staff if voters do not approve the spending increases.
Byron Gale with Citizens for Jeffco Schools endorsed the measures saying the district needed more. “We’re eagerly awaiting the green light from the board so we can get on with the campaign,” he said. “With the right grassroots campaign I like our chances.”
However, Sheila Atwell, executive director of Jeffco Students First was skeptical that having more money would automatically mean scores would improve. “Do dollars mean better schools? I just don’t see that being the case.”
The organization noted that a key problem with the measures is that it will not go towards helping students.
“What the board won’t say is that over half ($20,000,000) of the $39,000,000 will go directly into employee retirement funds; another $5,000,000 will go to “buy back” the furlough days, leaving less than $14,000,000 to cover over $46,000,000 in projected cuts.”
We are very disappointed that the board will spend the next five months talking about money instead of student achievement,” Atwell said. “Jeffco taxpayers have spent 450 million additional dollars over the last six years, and student achievement has not gotten any better. We would prefer the board begin to talk about real innovation instead of using money as a smoke screen for the status quo.”
The group went on to say that the proposed 46 million dollars in cuts for 2013-2014 include cutting teaching positions at every level, eliminating instrumental music, outdoor lab programs and cutting librarians. Many parents at Thursday’s board meeting expressed their concern and disappointment that most of these programs are targeted in this conversation. Parents noted that rather than save money, cutting instrumental music would actually raise because more teachers would need to be hired to cover the smaller classes. Furthermore, the Outdoor Lab program has already been made self-sustaining by raising the cost for parents and requiring schools to pick up the fees.
“We would like the board to concentrate on funding the things that improve achievement; we would like to see the most exceptional teachers in Jeffco making over $100,000 a year. The proposed mill levy has no money for teacher raises and is not tied to any achievement gains,” Atwell said.
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