As some of you have heard, an initiative will be on the ballot in Colorado giving voters an opportunity to invest further in K-12 education in Colorado.
In the last four years, public school funding has dropped by more than a billion dollars because of the lagging economy across our country. During that time, Colorado has passed exciting educational reform initiatives leading to positive change in our schools and school districts, however, these changes have increased the burden on our educational institutions through unfunded mandates.
The new initiative, titled Amendment 66, will come to voters on the fall ballot and will attempt to replace these lost revenues and implement a funding model that will stabilize school funding. This revenue will help districts cover the cost of programs for students with highly specialized needs and fully fund early childhood programs in the state. The ballot initiative, if approved, will return Colorado to income tax rates similar to those in place in 2000, raise $950 million dollars for public education, and ensure that 43 percent of the state’s general revenues in the future support K-12 education within Colorado.
Colorado currently ranks 46th out of 50 states in K-12 funding. While this ballot initiative represents a significant amount of money and will lead to an increase in income tax for working residents in Colorado, the additional revenue will cause Colorado to rise to only 41st out of 50 states.
Durango School District 9-R maintained a positive fund balance before the economic downturn. This allowed our board of education to prevent massive cuts in programs during the recession. This year, the district is spending almost $1.6 million dollars in deficit to ensure that our students have access to critical programs and maintain small class sizes in comparison to other districts in the state.
While we are fortunate to be in a position to incur such deficit spending, the ability to do so for an extended period of time is not sustainable or responsible. If voters approve this ballot initiative, the district would realize a little more than $4 million in new revenues allowing us to eliminate deficit spending and further invest in opportunities to address student needs and supports within our schools.
Also on the ballot this fall, the district will have six school board seats up for election. While we are fortunate to have current board members interested in retaining their seats, all residents have an opportunity to seek a seat on this important leadership body. Currently, three seats have no incumbent seeking re-election, and one of those seats has no candidate. Also on the ballot will be an initiative in Durango to stabilize our board of education through a reduction from seven to five member districts.
I have great respect for our current members of the board and those residents who have already come forward to offer themselves as board candidates. I hope you will take time to get to know each of them, understand the work that lies ahead of us in Durango and participate in the election process.
We look forward to even greater achievements ahead!
Daniel Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.