GSV has actively sought dialogue with representatives through one-on-one meetings to learn more about plans for the coming year. Read our letter to lawmakers.
As you know, Grassroots St Vrain is a non-profit volunteer organization comprised of St. Vrain Valley School District parents and community members who care deeply about public education in our district and around the state. Our recent successes in helping to pass measures in support of public schools in our district underscore clearly the dedication our community has to its schools. However, our district is a member of a state school system whose funding has been cut dramatically in recent years.
Colorado voters came out in clear support of their public schools in 2000 with the passage of Amendment 23, the spirit of which was intended to reverse years of cuts to education that occurred in the 1990s. Unfortunately, recent budgetary shortfalls in the state have all but erased the positive effect that Amendment 23 should have had. Currently, state funding of education falls $1 billion short of inflation and enrollment growth. That is $1 billion dollars short of what was intended by Amendment 23. For our district and our students this amounts to $34 million being taken out of our classrooms over the past four years.
It is our students that get pinched as a result of this decreased funding. They experience larger class sizes, reduced curriculum and instructional time and reduced individual support from their teachers. All of these things negatively impact a student’s ability to succeed and grow intellectually. In addition, this ongoing reduction in funding from the state has come at a time when the state has adopted numerous reforms that cost the districts additional money to implement. The adoption of new state standards and the new and additional assessments that accompany them will require substantial investment by the districts to implement. New, more frequent principal and teacher evaluation systems will also require substantial monetary investment by the districts if they are to be implemented properly. Furthermore, during the current legislative session our representatives are considering initiatives to change the method used to determine student count and to require new financial reporting practices. Both of these initiatives will again take money out of our classrooms in their implementation with no clear evidence that they will in any way improve student achievement outcomes. Therefore the state continues to ask the districts to invest their shrinking budgets into these new programs which effectively take money out of the classrooms and do not directly address student achievement.
It is time for our state to start investing in education once again. We, at Grassroots St. Vrain, stand with the majority of district superintendents, Great Education Colorado and other concerned Colorado citizens in asking the legislature to begin to undo the harm that has been done to our educational system in the past.
In the coming weeks the general assembly will be making decisions about our budgetary priorities in the state. We ask that public education funding be one of your highest priorities. A positive step toward improving the schools budgetary crisis is by addressing the “negative factor” that is utilized in the current school finance formula. This mechanism has been used by the legislature to reduce state funding to the school districts and a reduction of the negative factor can begin to restore that funding that the districts so desperately need. An increase in funding by a reduction of the negative factor will give school districts the flexibility to utilize the new funds in ways that they find are best for their students. Districts take different approaches to managing the budget shortfalls and their school boards and superintendents are the most qualified to determine how any additional funding should be spent to the best effect for the students in their district. We also ask the legislature to cease imposing reform mandates on our districts that have no clear bearing on improving students success and achievement in the classroom.
The time has come to take a leading role in restoring the funding streams that were not possible when the economy in Colorado was struggling. It’s now time to step up, take advantage of the boost to our economy, right the wrongs and stop kicking the can down the road for others to solve. Five years of systemic, annual cuts may seem very small at the ‘bird’s eye’ state budget level but in the career of a student or in the eyes of their parents, those are years now lost forever. It is over one third of the K-12 experience. If Colorado is to compete at the national and international levels for job creation, industry accelerations and scientific innovations, we need to reinvest in our students and schools. There is no other time but now. Please take advantage of the wealth of knowledge you receive from the experts in the field, the people in the trenches and the people who have students in the system right now that are being let down every time public school funding is cut.
We thank you in advance for your attention and time in these matters and appreciate your hard work at the Capitol. We are anxiously awaiting your votes during this legislative session and welcome all dialogue with you.
The Grassroots St Vrain Leadership Team
Lisa Hainline, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Elahi, Vice President, email@example.com
Maria Cattell, Outreach Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Storz, Communications Director, email@example.com
Lisa Granat, Treasurer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Ragland, Secretary, email@example.com
Laura McDonald, Co-Founder, firstname.lastname@example.org