Join Us in Voting Yes on 3A & 3B

Jeffco School Board Watch began when our district was controlled by a board majority who did not have Jeffco students’ best interests at heart. Last year, those three board members were recalled by two-thirds of the vote, and five new school board members took office a few days later. Now we have a school board working together to ensure all 86,000 Jeffco students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for their future. But our work has not ended. Next we must ensure Jeffco voters support 3A and 3B, the mill and bond. Our next several posts will address the importance of these two measures in greater detail, but overall, here’s why we at Jeffco School Board Watch will be voting Yes on 3A and 3B and why we hope you’ll join us:

The Mill Levy Override – 3A

The mill, 3A, will provide an additional $33 million in operating dollars that will benefit all of Jeffco’s neighborhood, option, and charter schools. Jeffco has received $481 million less in state funding over the past five years, and the state warns we should brace for more cuts. Issue 3A provides a local solution – dollars that will stay in Jeffco and benefit Jeffco students.

Specifically, those dollars will allow Jeffco to expand music, art, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and vocational programming in schools, while also providing more school-level budget funding (Student Based Budgeting or SBB) so schools can best serve the needs and interests of their individual student populations. The mill will also provide extra financial support for Jeffco’s smallest neighborhood schools to address their unique budget challenges, and distribute an equal portion of funding to Jeffco’s charter schools. And, Issue 3A will fund increased mental health support for schools, including a half-time counselor at every elementary school, and will provide additional dollars for security and emergency management.

The Bond – 3B

The bond, 3B, will provide $535 million in funding to construct new schools, address a backlog of repairs, update security systems, and add educational opportunities for Jeffco’s sixth grade students by moving them to middle school. Jeffco has a growing repair and maintenance backlog, and has not had money to invest in new classroom space since the 2004 bond passed. Again, Issue 3B provides a local solution, and the dollars will stay in Jeffco and benefit Jeffco students.

Specifically, 3B will provide funding to construct three new elementary schools in overcrowded areas of Jeffco. The funds will also allow the district to replace four aging schools, and renovate or build additions at 45 other schools. Plus, 110 schools will receive much-needed and long-overdue repairs and upgrades. Jeffco students will benefit from updated technology and lab spaces. And those in sixth grade will have access to more academic and elective options in middle schools.

Together, 3A and 3B are an investment in Jeffco’s future that will cost just $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value.

How You Can Help

To help get these measures passed, please consider walking door to door, or calling voters, or writing a letter to the editor. Pick up and display a yard sign, and print this sign for your car window.
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Finally, please consider donating to ensure every Jeffco voter receives factual information about the mill and bond. If you’ve already donated, thank you! Please consider another donation to help the campaign reach their goal.

We here at Jeffco School Board Watch thank you for all you’ve already done and all you will be doing to help Jeffco pass 3A & 3B November 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

3A & 3B – How You Can Help (Thank you!!)

Because we have such a far-reaching list of followers, we wanted to dedicate a post to how you can help the Jeffco Schools mill and bond campaignYes on 3A & 3B.

Canvassing

Also known as door-knocking, canvassing is one of the most important and effective ways of reaching voters – especially the 70+% who aren’t associated directly with Jeffco schools. It’s simple – you just walk from home to home in designated neighborhoods talking to people about the importance of 3A & 3B for Jeffco students.

You can sign up to walk in your neighborhood and others throughout Jeffco. It’s even better when you walk with a friend. Training and all materials are provided.

Information Tables

Another great way to help is by volunteering at a school or library information table. Again, all materials are provided. You simply pass out campaign information and answer any basic questions people may have. You don’t have to be an expert – it is always OK to offer to have the campaign chair – Bill Bottoms – or one of the campaign co-chairs – Frank DeAngelis, Angela Geier or Chris Webber – get back to interested voters. To help with a school information table, contact one of these amazing area chairpeople:

Support Jeffco Kids is also arranging information tables at area libraries. You can sign up here to help with that effort.

Easy, Free Publicity

Feeling artistic? Help paint car windows with 3A & 3B messages. Or, help pass out 3A & 3B campaign literature at area events. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com for more information.

Campaign Presentation

Arrange to have someone from the campaign speak at your next Garden Club meeting, HOA meeting, Book Club or other gathering. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com to schedule.

PTA Advocacy

Vital funding to upgrade security and technology, keeping quality teachers in the classroom and ensuring students have the necessary skills for college and the workforce – all benefits of 3A & 3B and all reasons why Jeffco PTA endorsed the two ballot measures. For information on how to get your school to add its name to the growing list of PTAs endorsing the mill and bond, contact Katie Winner at Katie.Winner@nyu.edu.

Yard Signs

Display a yard sign (here’s where you can get one). And, if you are or know the owner of a parcel of land or a business where a “Yes on 3A/3B” banner would be seen by many Jeffco voters, please email Suzanne Adams at spavelka74@yahoo.com.

Meet with Board Members

Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education members are hosting community forums this fall so you can talk with them about current happenings in our school district. They’ll share updates on topics such as Jeffco 2020, budget, and the mill and bond ballot initiatives and you’ll have plenty of time for questions and discussion:

  • 9/28, 6-7pm – Wheat Ridge High School Library
  • 10/10, 6-7pm – Bear Creek High School Library
  • 10/11, 6-7pm – Columbine High School Library
  • 10/17, 6-7pm – Pomona High School Library
  • 10/25, 6-7pm – Evergreen Firehouse

Bottom Line

Our community has accomplished amazing things when we’ve all come together for an important cause. A very sincere thank you from all of us here at Jeffco School Board Watch to all of you for anything and everything you can do to help Jeffco pass the mill and bond November 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Big Year for Mill & Bond Elections

Continuing our series on why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year, today’s post focuses on the bigger picture — what other districts are doing to address Colorado’s education funding shortage.

We’ll give you a hint – ballot measures for mill levy overrides and bonds are on the ballot in more than 50 districts around our state. Denver, Aurora and Jeffco combined are seeking over $1.4 billion in bonds alone, and across the state, school funding ballot initiatives top $4 billion.

One big factor: our state’s “negative factor,” which says the state can give schools less funding than actually mandated by Colorado’s school funding formula. The Colorado School Finance Project believes this approach has plummeted Colorado’s per-pupil spending to 40th in the US, when we should be closer to 28th if the negative factor funds were actually given to our school districts. Without this funding, school districts across Colorado struggle to offer competitive salaries and maintain their buildings.

Here in Jeffco, hiring salaries are below the average of the five most comparable nearby districts – sometimes as much as 16% lower. In the last few years, Jeffco’s teacher turnover has steadily risen,  and our current school board has made it clear that they want Jeffco to be the first choice for the best teachers.

This year, our board used one-time dollars to provide modest pay increases for employees. That compensation level can only continue if the mill levy override passes.

The 3A mill dollars will also ensure increased mental health support for schools, increased security, increased Student Based Budgeting funding for all schools, increased support services, and equitable allocations to all charter schools. This ensures Jeffco students will receive the education necessary to prepare them for college and careers. And these dollars will stay in Jeffco.

Jeffco also has significant and growing maintenance and improvement needs at its 155 schools. Should the bond pass, 110 schools will receive much-needed improvements, technology updates, repairs and lab upgrades. Additionally, 45 schools and facilities will receive long-overdue renovations and additions, including new classroom space – something that has not been added since the 2004 bond passed. And, four schools will be replaced and three new elementary schools built.

Some are asking why maintenance on existing schools has been deferred so long. Quite simply, funding has fallen far short of the level it needs to be to offer competitive salaries and maintain schools. Funding has been so inadequate that Jeffco has fallen farther behind our neighboring districts in compensation while also deferring growing maintenance needs in order to protect funds going to classrooms.

Jeffco is not alone in this funding crisis – which is why we see 50 districts around our state asking voters to approve additional resources  Of the seven largest districts in Colorado, six have funding initiatives on the November ballot.

Jeffco, with 86,000 students, is asking for a total of $568 million – and has not had money to spend on new square footage in schools since 2004. That’s 12 years!

Denver, with more than 90,000 students, is asking for $628 million – that’s on top of the nearly $1 billion Denver voters have already approved over the past 8 years.

Cherry Creek has about 55,000 students, and is asking voters to approve $273.9 million in new funding. Cherry Creek voters also approved $150 million four years ago.

Aurora, with about 42,000 students, hopes voters will approve $350 million.

Boulder, with about 31,000 students, has reached funding caps, but can ask voters for an additional $10 million under the newly passed Debt Free Schools Act.

Rounding out the seven largest districts, Adams 12 Five Star, with just under 40,000 students, hopes for an additional $350 million, and Douglas County, with nearly 67,000 students, is still considering options.

For our visual learners, here’s a table comparing the ballot measures of several districts. 2016 Mill Bond Comparisons

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic1

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic2
This November, communities across our state will be asked to shore up their local schools to ensure the best education and opportunities for their students.
Poudre School District Board President Cathy Kipp speaks for all these communities when she writes,
The alternative to this plan is not pretty. It involves expensive temporary solutions, which come straight out of the school district’s general fund and negatively impact the education of all our students. This is the way schools are built and maintained in Colorado, by the will of our voters.
Here in Jeffco, voting Yes on 3A/3B will mean safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. It will mean ensuring our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. It will mean a better future for our students and our community.

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To volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign, visit Support Jeffco Schools. And please pass along this information so more voters have the facts.

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Bond

This is the second post in our series on understanding why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year. Today’s post focuses on 3B, the bond.

How did we get here?

First, we’ll remind you that funding – or lack thereof – has been the biggest challenge for a number of years. You may remember this graph:

NegativeFactorWithout the negative factor, Jeffco Schools would have received $481 million more from the state during the past five years. Instead, Jeffco has been making do with less, while simultaneously petitioning legislators to reduce the negative factor and put that money back into schools. In real terms, this means we’ve been deferring maintenance, and that backlog is growing.

In addition, although Jeffco home values are at an all-time high, the resulting increase in your property taxes has not increased Jeffco’s funding. Instead, the state puts more of those taxes into schools, but then takes an equal amount of state funds to use elsewhere in the budget, as you can see in the graph below.

StateLocalfundingMill levy override funds are different. They stay in Jeffco and lead to increased per-pupil funding.

In 2012, we passed a $99 million bond to address the most urgent facilities needs like new roofs, HVAC systems and more. Those needs have been addressed — on time and within budget — but they only fixed Jeffco’s Tier 1 needs. We still had hundreds of millions of dollars of Tier 2-5 needs for our schools and facilities, and even more urgent maintenance issues have built up in the last four years.

Part of the issue is that our schools are, on average, 45 years old. Plumbing, roofs, HVAC systems, windows, fire alarm systems, and more are aging and need to be replaced. Every single school in Jeffco needs some sort of maintenance.

You’ve probably also read that Jeffco Schools was testing for lead in school pipes recently. They found lead that exceeded federal standards in about 8 percent of the fixtures tested so far. Jeffco Schools is now taking steps to fix this, but it’s another indication that our schools are aging, and we need funding that can adequately address these critical maintenance issues.

What will the bond do?

  • Upgrade old schools with updated security systems
  • Provide new schools in areas where Jeffco is growing. Our school district has not had a bond to fund new construction since 2004 when voters approved a $323.8 million bond.
  • Allow the district to address the repair backlog of leaky roofs, faulty wiring and more by improving, updating, and repairing 110 schools, including updating technology and lab spaces.
  • Renovate and construct additions at 45 schools and facilities to add more classroom space
  • Replace four current aging facilities
  • Construct three new elementary schools.

You can read more about the bond outline here and read the final facilities master plan here.

Want to know how your school will benefit? Jeffco Schools has an interactive web page that allows you to access information about your child’s school, schools in your neighborhood, and schools that you might be considering in the future.

This is also a good time for the district to consider a bond. Bond interest rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen in the last several decades, making this a cost-effective time to borrow.

We’ve also heard people asking why we can’t just convince the state to provide more funding. The short answer is that we’ve petitioned our legislators to do just that for many years, session after session, and it’s not happening. Superintendents around the state have advocated, as in this 2014 letter.

This year, the superintendents sent another letter, and a rally was held at the state capitol where superintendents and school supporters alike filled the room to show support. This writer was at that rally. It didn’t work.

Eagle Schools Superintendent Jason Glass summarized the issue nicely in a recent column: 

To make a long story short, this “negative factor” cuts nearly $1 billion from Colorado’s schools annually and accounts for an accumulated $40 million in cuts to [Eagle County schools] alone.*

I’d like to say that Colorado is on its way toward restoring these cuts. Alas, the cavalry is not on the way from the state. The plain, cold reality is that without a local solution, our schools will never return to pre-recession levels.

*JCSBW note: that amount is about $80 million per year in Jeffco, for an accumulated $481 million in cuts so far.

What we can — and must — do is create our own solutions. In Jeffco, the cost is reasonable: $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year to fund our school facilities and programming, and protect our home values.

We can support our Jeffco students by providing safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can make sure our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. We can make a better future for our students and our community.

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Also don’t forget to head over to Support Jeffco Schools to volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign if you haven’t already.

JeffCo Proud!

 

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Mill Levy Override

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This fall, we’re going to post a series of articles explaining the basics of the mill levy override and bond, 3A and 3B, so you can understand how the board members came to their decisions. We support both measures.

Today, we’d like to spell out the basics of 3A, the mill levy override.

Funding — or lack thereof —is the primary driver. The short version is that state funding is a big challenge. Due to the negative factor, Jeffco Schools has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted.

NegativeFactor

Jeffco is also not receiving any of the marijuana money that was budgeted. That’s going to other districts, mostly small and rural, for facility maintenance and construction.

Several forecasts also suggest Jeffco Schools could be facing more cuts for 2017-18. If that happens, 3A dollars will be used first to backfill those cuts and maintain programs.

The mill levy override, 3A, would provide an additional $33 million in funding that would benefit all Jeffco Schools: neighborhood, option, and charter.

It will be split so that Jeffco neighborhood and options schools receive $29.7 million, and charter schools receive 10 percent, $3.3 million. Those numbers mirror the percent of Jeffco students enrolled in neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

If state funding remains stable, the $33 million will be used to expand learning opportunities, update security, and to retain and attract excellent teachers. Here’s what the board prioritized in their meetings this summer:

  • $12.6 million – compensation to retain and recruit excellent teachers
  • $3.7 million – mental health support for schools, including a half-time counselor at every elementary school
  • $800,000 – additional support for security and emergency management, including increasing personnel, supporting ongoing crisis prevention and intervention training programs, support supplies, and software purchases
  • $12.2 million – increased Student Based Budgeting funding in all schools, including extra support for small schools who are challenged by the current SBB process. This will allow schools the flexibility to enhance education for their students.
  • $400,000 – increased support services, like the additional custodians and supplies that will be needed when the new schools open, and additional district building techs
  • The remaining $3.3 million will go to charter schools, whose boards will decide how to allocate the funds to enhance teaching, programming, and more.

You can read more about the mill levy override priorities here and read the full ballot text here.

Together, 3A and 3B will cost $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year.

We’ve waited a long time for state funding to bounce back after the economy recovered. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s not going to happen.

Now we have a choice. We can create our own solutions and vote to support our Jeffco students in safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can vote to provide funding that allows us to attract and retain excellent teachers. We can make a difference.

Vote yes on 3A and 3B, and remember to tell your friends. Spreading the word on your social media of choice also helps, so please share this post.

We’d also like to remind everyone that the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign need volunteers to help in the coming weeks, as well as donations to help pay for signs and other campaign materials. If you can help, please head over to the Support Jeffco Schools website and sign up there.

Jeffco Proud!