State Funding vs. Property Taxes: Why We Need 3A and 3B

Have you found yourself thinking about how your property taxes were higher this year and wondering why school districts across Colorado, including Jeffco Schools, are asking for more money in mill and bond requests like 3A and 3B?

We have answers. Read on!

Believe it or not, both of these things are true:

  1. Property taxes in Jeffco increased due to increased home values in the area.
  2. State school funding remained largely flat.

In Jeffco, state funding for the 2016-17 year increased 1.2 percent over 2015-16 funding, as reported in Jeffco’s 2016-17 Dollars and Sense brochure. Inflation, however, has been measured at 2.8 percent on the Front Range and is predicted to be at 2.6 percent this year.

When we say state funding has remained “largely flat” what we mean is that sometimes — such as this year–it isn’t even keeping up with inflation, which means less money for classrooms, for maintaining facilities, and for keeping pay competitive.

What’s worse is that even though the housing market is booming and taxes are up, the Denver Post reported last month that 2017-18 budget cuts may be on the way:

Colorado’s state budget faces a potential deficit this fiscal year, economic forecasters told state lawmakers Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to fall short of previous expectations.

If true, that would mean cuts to K-12 funding for 2017-18, and potentially mid-year cuts this year.

Let’s repeat that: despite a booming economy and increased property taxes, Jeffco Schools could see mid-year budget cuts this year.

That was the news a week ago. A few days ago Chalkbeat report Nic Garcia tweeted that the state budget chief now thinks that won’t happen. However, we won’t know more until the budget forecast is released at the beginning of November.

Here’s how school funding can remain flat even though your taxes increased:

StateLocalfunding

It’s pretty simple: the state uses more of your local taxes to fund your schools and decreases their share to use elsewhere in the budget. Mill levy override funds, on the other hand, aren’t part of the equation. All money from 3A and 3B stays in Jeffco and puts additional money in all our schools — charter, option, or neighborhood — and does so equitably. All students benefit.

Money from 3A becomes part of the operating budget; money from 3B is specifically for facilities, including capital maintenance, new construction, and school additions.

This chart that shows Jeffco’s state funding for the past several years. Note that 2016-17 funding is a mere $167 more than it was in 2009-2010.

statefunding

If state funding was keeping up with inflation, our students should be receiving $7,956 this year — $719 more than actual funding levels.

That’s why school funding needs a grassroots effort — in this case, 3A and 3B.

This graphic shows the difference that mill levy override funding makes for students. Boulder and Denver voters have approved many more 3A dollars for their students, which means their districts have more dollars for the classroom every year.

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Also, we’ve seen some crazy posts complaining that money from 3B isn’t being used to target student achievement. First, the law dictates that 3B money has to be used for facilities. Second, students learn better when they’re not being distracted by cold air from drafty windows, chilly classrooms from outdated HVAC systems, or water dripping into a bucket in their classroom because the leaky roof hasn’t been fixed. It’s just common sense.

A few other points:

1.  Yes, it would be nice if the state would get rid of the negative factor and restore that money to schools. But it hasn’t happened despite intense lobbying from Colorado’s superintendents, advocacy groups like Great Education Colorado, and individual citizens.

Instead, more cuts are predicted. Are we content to sit by and watch our school budgets get slashed again, or can we do better for our students? Our answer: by voting Yes on 3A and 3B Jeffco can do better.

2.  Marijuana money won’t dig us out of the funding hole. In fact, Jeffco isn’t receiving any pot tax. It isn’t and won’t help us with the current issues.

3.  Last, don’t forget that there is a cost to doing nothing in Jeffco. The leaky roofs won’t miraculously repair themselves. The cost to educate students and maintain our facilities won’t decrease if we choose to ignore it. We’ll talk about that more in another post.

Want one more reason? Watch Jeffco Economic Development Corporation Chair David Jones explain why the JEDC endorsed 3A 3B:

Please vote Yes on 3A and 3B, and then get those ballots in. Use this graphic to encourage others to vote by Nov. 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

Story #5 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Witt and Newkirk Premeditate Abusive Student Privacy Violation

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #5:

What Happened: The backstory is fairly convoluted, so we’re going to mostly leave it to the Colorado Pols version, which includes a video of Witt and Newkirk conniving:

Investigation Underway Into Alleged Student Bullying By Jefferson County School Board, Staff

We wrote two weeks ago about an ugly and perhaps legally actionable incident that occurred at the May meeting of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County Board of Education.

The summary is that WNW’s continuous battle with Jeffco Students for Change reached a boiling point several times before this episode. When the students requested a meeting with the school board, WNW rejected the students’ request. That’s unfortunate, but not surprising.

What was surprising was that Ken Witt and John Newkirk had obviously pre-planned to “out” one of the student leaders, to everyone’s surprise, by showing personal information and calling her out at the public school board meeting, including an accusation of her being “racist” because she “favorited” a joke on Twitter that was critical of disgraced former Communication Director Lisa Pinto. Again, the backstory is complex and these stories are meant to be summaries, but let’s just say that that the “racist” accusation was a such a stretch that most people were scratching their heads about how such a connection could even be drawn. Furthermore, WNW’s organizer and previously censured Board member Laura Boggs had also “favorited” the same tweet, but of course she wasn’t called out. In a world of politically correct stretching often called out by conservatives, the “racist” stretch was dumbfounding to the extreme, but nonetheless what remained in people’s minds was two board members colluding to smear a student for simply “favoriting” a tweet that other people “favorited” as well, including their own allies.

Why It Matters: In two words, No Boundaries.

You can hear yourself thinking “OK, maybe they lie, cherry-pick, exaggerate, are hypocritical, are controlled by outsiders, and don’t know much about education, but of course they have boundaries when it comes to kids.”

“OK, maybe not on that last one either.”

That’s a big deal.

A chicken-guarding-the-henhouse investigator found no formal wrongdoing, of course, but suggested that the behavior was unprofessional and could have been handled much better. More importantly, according to some observers, the result was easily manipulated by the fact that in requesting the investigation of itself, the board did not include emotional distress as a result of the bullying but limited the inquiry to physical bullying.

Sound familiar? The board asking for an investigation of itself? With a tightly worded question designed to exclude the actual wrongdoing?

On top of the actual fact that a student and student’s family were deeply upset and unsettled, this whole episode was much more than a breaking down of the idea that “they wouldn’t go there with kids, would they?” barrier that some of us may have still had. It was also about their rank amateurism in dealing with conflict, and the way they spend their time. Over the past two years, it always seems as if they’re making hasty, coached decisions when it comes to actual substantive topics, but they’re spending a lot of time on stunt-planning. The fact that this was so obviously pre-planned, amidst a bunch of substantive discussion items that had been given short shrift, was a reminder that WNW’s primary “solutions” to education are about optics, power, and control, and not actual substance…or caring about students as individuals.