From the Centennial Institute. Although written last year, the problems today are the same as one year ago.
Colorado public education is the most important communal undertaking for our state's future. It is also the most expensive obligation for taxpayers. But as we enter 2011, education faces both a budget crisis and an identity crisis.
Legislators will take up another round of unwelcome spending reductions come January. At the same time, school districts from the gritty urban neighborhoods of Montbello to the affluent greenbelts of Douglas County are mired in controversy over the very meaning of education.
Centennial Institute asked former Education Commissioner William Moloney, who was Colorado's chief state school officer under Democratic and Republican administrations from 1997 to 2007 and has worked on education policy in a number of other states and nations, to think outside the box about realistic solutions. Here are his analysis and recommendations.
Three Ways the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong
The grim fiscal situation now confronting Colorado legislators, along with their counterparts in nearly every other state, has no precedent since the Great Depression.
What is to be done about the projected deficit of $1.1 billion in our state's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011? And where will an additional quarter-billion dollars of spending cuts be found for the current fiscal year, ending June 30? Reducing the level of state aid to K-12 education has to be part of the answer. With a painful bipartisan effort, budget-writers held K-12 spending $260 billion under its earlier projected level for this fiscal year. Further cuts are acknowledged on all sides as unavoidable when the legislature reconvenes in January. How much to cut is not agreed, but given that K-12 consumes nearly half the state's General Fund, reductions will be large. Policymakers at the State Capitol and across Colorado's 178 school districts can only find their way forward if they see through the conventional wisdom about K-12 budgets and results. It is badly mistaken in three ways.
Myth 1: Conventional wisdom holds that K-12 education in Colorado today is both cost-effective and educationally effective. That is wrong.
Myth 2: Conventional wisdom holds that deep reductions in spending will doom education reform. That too is wrong.
Myth 3: Conventional wisdom holds that there are no models of schools or systems doing much better with much less. Wrong yet again.
Read the entire article, including why each of the three pieces of conventional wisdom are wrong.
Published as a public service by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University
www.Centennialccu.org, 8787 W. Alameda Avenue, Lakewood CO 80226, 303.963.3424