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.
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.
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
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.
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.