Broken Promise?

The following email which was sent out today is reprinted with permission from Ms. Kelly Johnson, a JeffCo parent:

======================================

BROKEN PROMISE?

Remember in November 2012, when Jeffco voters strongly supported a $39 million mill levy override to MAINTAIN Jeffco’s traditions of excellence. This did not bring anything new for Jeffco’s 85,000 students, but did prevent class sizes from growing even larger, 400 additional jobs from being cut, special programs such as instrumental music and specialized educators such as teacher librarians and counselors from being cut, and more. Prior to going to the ballot, the group organizing the campaign, Citizens for Jeffco Schools, met with representatives of Jeffco’s Charter Schools to discuss what the schools would receive should the mill pass. Despite the fact that state law does not require Jeffco Schools to share any mill funds with Charter Schools, all agreed that $100 per student EACH YEAR would be fair. While the mill funds left for the neighborhood and option schools go into the General Fund, the Charter Schools receive their $100 per student directly, annually, to spend however they see fit.

Now, according to budget discussions at Thursday evening Board meeting, the newly elected School Board majority wants to take an additional $7.4 million in mill funds and give it directly to Jeffco’s 15 Charter Schools. That’s more than half a million dollars per school to spend however the boards of those Charter Schools decide. That now leaves less than $32 million of your tax dollars to try to cover the projected $45 million in cuts we fought to avoid in 2012. What will the Board cut to make the budget work? Or, will there be new money from the state to cover the costs? Shouldn’t new money be spent on restoring the things we’d already cut before the mill passed?

Remember, prior to passing the mill levy override in 2012, Jeffco Schools had cut $63 million, two school days, the foreign language requirement to graduate, the variety in electives from which high school students can choose, funding for teacher professional development, teacher-librarians, assistant principals, school secretaries, clinic aides, custodial services, safety programs and funding, and more. Meanwhile, class sizes were on the rise.

I have great concerns that this new School Board majority – not Jeffco Schools – may be about to break at least some of the promises made to you, the voters, back in 2012.

If you have similar concerns, please email the Board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us and also:

Ken Witt, President – kewitt@jeffco.k12.co.us
Julie Williams, 1st Vice President – juwillia@jeffco.k12.co.us
Lesley Dahlkemper, 2nd Vice President – ldahlkem@jeffco.k12.co.us
John Newkirk, Secretary – jnewkirk@jeffco.k12.co.us
Jill Fellman, Treasurer – jcfellma@jeffco.k12.co.us

This ensures your communications are public record.

COMMUNITY BUDGET MEETINGS START TONIGHT

Please plan to attend one of the upcoming community engagement meetings on the 2014-2015 district budget.  There will be an overview of the budget process, as well as time for small group discussion on the budget.

VERY IMPORTANT!!

Monday, March 3, 6:00-7:30 p.m. Standley Lake HS and Evergreen HS
Wednesday March 5, 6:00-7:30 p.m.: Chatfield HS and Arvada West HS
Saturday, March 8, 9:30-11:00 a.m.: Lakewood HS and Dakota Ridge HS

Please share this info, gather friends and attend!!

“The Reformers” showings:

The Conifer Town Center, just east of Safeway, lower level
NOTE: Two people from DougCo will attend to respond during Q&A at the end.
Emoji NEW:  Monday, March 10, 8pm: Mt. Carbon Elementary School,
12776 W. Cross Avenue, Littleton 80127
Please share this info, gather friends and attend!!
Thank you for paying attention to these issues.

Kelly Johnson
Jeffco Parent

=======================================

WNW is getting ready to break promises the District made to the taxpayers of Jefferson County.  Here is a graphic from the 3A campaign that shows what was promised.  They are also preparing to ignore the results of the Budget Survey filled out by more than 13,000 JeffCo residents.  What will they do next?

What you can do is go to the Budget Forums and the Board Meeting!  Make sure that WNW and everyone else knows that this is being done against the expressed wishes of the people of JeffCo.

Do not let JeffCo become another Douglas County!  Go and make your voice heard!

13 thoughts on “Broken Promise?

  1. The Jeffco school system is doomed unless it reforms its runaway pension benefits.

  2. I pay taxes in JeffCo and my child attends a Charter school. Why should we receive less? Its absurd.

    • The issue here is not about how much money charter schools get (and they get everything state law says they should), but rather will the Board honor the promises made by the District in 2012 about how 3A money will be used. If WNW breaks that promise, will taxpayers ever trust a promise from JeffCo again? Remember, the majority of voters and taxpayers in JeffCo do not have kids in school. If they vote for a mil levey override (which is what 3A is) based on the promise that the money will be used a particular way, what will they think if the money is diverted on a whim? What will happen the next time JeffCo goes to the voters and asks for more money for the schools, regular and charter a like?

      The promise made must be a promise kept, or the long-term consequences could be very severe.

  3. There is a lot of bashing of charter schools on the Facebook posting of this. Here is how I weighed in:

    Charter schools are absolutely public schools! In addition to being held to the same standards of admission (lottery) and academic standards, charters have the extra scrutiny of appearing before the board regularly to have their charters reviewed and renewed. Charter schools often get less per pupil revenue than neighborhood schools, but have the extra burden of paying their own operating expenses. At my children’s charter school, the free and reduced lunch population has been steadily increasing and is on par with other schools in our area. Additionally, we have a much higher than standard percentage of kids with special needs, which we serve on a shoestring budget. Charter school parents pay taxes while choosing to take advantage of an alternative approach within the public school system. Everyone benefits by having these choices. Why shouldn’t charters receive Mill funding?

    • As we have stated in other posts and comments, JeffCo School Board Watch is not anti-Charter school. Some of us have had kids in Charter schools. We are anti-poorly run schools, be they Charter, regular, or option. We have specifically criticized two existing charter schools (Collegiate Academy and Mountain Phoenix) and one proposed charter school (Cornerstone Academy). In all three cases the criticism was for financial mismanagement (the existing ones) or poor and inadequate planning (the proposed one). In the cases of Collegiate and Mountain Phoenix, the management and boards of the schools allowed the schools to get into serious debt. Between the two of them, (assuming WNW approves Mountain Phoenix’s loan request) they have forced the District to bail them out to the tune of $650,000, money that could have been better spent else where.

      This is a situation that a regular public school could never get into. The reason is that the District is able to keep an eagle eye on the budget and expenditures of regular schools. Charter schools, on the other hand, once their charter is approved basically become immune to the District’s financial management teams. Part of the promises Charter School advocates make is that they can run a school more efficiently without District oversight.. The District only hears about them being in trouble when they come begging for a loan or (as in the case of Mountain Phoenix) someone sends an unpaid bill directly to the District!

      As it stands now, a Charter school can run up any debt and count on the District to bail them out. That we object to. If the District has to give them taxpayer funds, then the taxpayers should have the right of District financial oversight.

      The issue with the Mil levy has more to do with the keeping promises and the price in breaking them.

      In 2012 the District asked the JeffCo taxpayers to authorize the Mil override in order to keep existing funding levels constant. The loss of revenue from the State threatened to punch huge holes in the District’s budget. The taxpayers were promised that the money would be used to keep funding at the 2011-2012 levels and not to expand some program, or pay into PERA, or fund whole new programs. The JeffCo taxpayers took the District at their word, and the Mil override passed.

      Now WNW wants to break that word. By redirecting $7.5 million dollars to the Charter schools, they will expand a one program (charter schools) while allowing other programs to take huge budget hits. The fact that they are trying to do this by redirecting money that is currently earmarked to rebuild the Reserve fund just throws financial imprudence on top of breaking the District’s word. The current State of Colorado economic forecast calls for an economic downturn sometime in the next few years. If the Reserve fund is not built back up, then any loss of state funds will hit directly the operating budget. If the District then goes back to the taxpayers, asking for another Mil override, the taxpayer reaction could very well be, “Why should we believe what you tell us you will spend the money on? You lied to us last time.”

      That is what is at risk here.

      Whether Charter schools are under-funded and if so, where the extra money should come from is a completely separate issue. The issue here is keeping promises and good financial management.

      • I find this post disappointing on several levels.

        What legal mechanism exists for a public charter to, as you say, “run up any debt and count on the District to bail them out”? You said in another post you were unsure what consequences there were for the district were a charter to default on a debt obligation — are you sure now?

        These are complicated issues, and no one is going to take seriously *any* blog that plays fast and loose with the facts here. You’re conflating — deliberately or otherwise — several issues, and ruining your credibility on all of them by doing so. And I say that as a staunch opponent of the new board majority.

        • Sorry for the delay in responding and posting.

          We are trying to remain very focused and remaining on solid ground when it comes to the facts. Here is why we are worried about Charter School debt coming back on the District:

          1) Two Charter Schools, Collegiate Academy and Mountain Phoenix, have got into serious financial straits. Both have approached the Board for loans to cover the deficit.

          2) In January, WNW authorized a $400,000 loan to Collegiate Academy, despite a “recovery plan” that emphasized, among other things, buying advertising space on billboards. There were no strings attached, no plan to oversee the school’s progress, just money.

          3) This month, Mountain Phoenix is asking for a $250,000 loan which includes re-financing an existing $20k debt and paying off over a $165,000 debt owed to a construction company. Said construction company, upon being unpaid by Mountain Phoenix, sent the bill to the District. Obviously the construction company feels that the District is obligated to make good on debts run up by Charter Schools.

          In addition to these, there are two other Charter Schools (Colorado School for the Deaf and Two Roads) that have loans from the District totally another $226,000, for a total of $876,000. If the Charter Schools defaulted on those loans, who would the lenders to turn to for recompense? The construction company for Mountain Phoenix already showed what they think – the District.

          At the very least, the District would be involved in a series of long lawsuits it would have to fend off.

          That is the logic we followed. The Board has been asked what happens if these schools default, but no answers have been forthcoming.

          If you disagree us, please help us out. What is your opinion?

  4. Pingback: Jeffco School Board - Broken Promises? | Moving Mountains Colorado

  5. My concern is that I believe parents should have a choice of where to send their children to school. As a parent brick and mortar schools didn’t work for my son and he dropped out. Parents make a choice to send their children to charter schools. The charter sets the curriculum, the pay, snow days, etc. So if you choose to send your child there than you should be prepared to pay extra costs associated with that choice. The board decided to take 7 million to give to charters. That’s all well and good. The charters pay for district services but what are those services? Human resources, accounting, payroll, English as a second language, special ed. District staffs have been cut and the board wants to create more charters. Where does the board think the money is going to come from for these value added services? Are they going to authorize additional funds to hire staff to support charters?

    As for pensions, district employees pay 8 percent to Pera. Non government employees pay 6.2 percent. The employer matches that. The state has mandated the rates the employer contributes. Jeffco could pass on additional percentages to employees but on top of a three percent pay reduction, increased insurance costs why? The new board will probably opt for it. Your biggest asset is your people…students, parents, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers. The district will lose several effective leaders due to these decisions. The cost of turnover I.e. superintendent, teachers, principals are high. Employees look at benefits. Why wouldn’t I go work for Denver when Jeffco pays me less and I pay more Pera? Jeffco needs a competitive edge to attract the best and brightest!

    • Concerned Parent – Thank you for your comment. As we have said many times, we are not anti-Charter, we are anti-poorly run schools and (now!) a poorly run District.

      The “education market” concept seems to think that talented dedicated teachers grow on trees and are willing to work for less than calling-center wages. The truth is that teachers need five to six years of college and graduate work plus another five to seven years of mentored experience to really hit their stride. This is no different from any of the other discipline or profession. The teachers with a Master’s degree and 5-20 years of experience are the backbone of any District or school. We need to be paying close attention to their retention rate. A district that has its average degree/experience level begin to drop precipitously is a District in trouble. No District can afford the rapid loss of that core without serious consequences.

      No one gets into teaching because it will make him or her rich. But should not every teacher earn enough to be able to send their own children to college too?

      Maybe that’s the measurement we should have: Do we pay our teachers enough so they can send their kids to a good college? If not, then we have a big problem.

      • Kathi,

        Thank you very much for bringing this article to our attention. It clarifies very well what PERA is and how the funding is mandated. Perhaps Mr. Newkirk will read it, be enlightened, and then stop wasting the Board’s time.

Comments are closed.