On Thursday last week the Jeffco school board voted to put a bond and mill on the November 2012 ballot.
What the board won’t say is that over half ($20,000,000) of the $39,000,000 will go directly into employee retirement funds; another $5,000,000 will go to “buy back” the furlough days, leaving less than $14,000,000 to cover over $46,000,000 in projected cuts.
“We are very disappointed that the board will spend the next five months talking about money instead of student achievement,” said Sheila Atwell, executive director of JeffCo Students First. “Jeffco taxpayers have spent 450 million additional dollars over the last six years, and student achievement has not gotten any better. We would prefer the board begin to talk about real innovation instead of using money as a smoke screen for the status quo.”
The proposed 46 million dollars in cuts for 2013-2014 include cutting teaching positions at every level, eliminating instrumental music, eliminating outdoor lab programs, and cutting teacher librarians. Many parents at Thursday’s board meeting expressed their concern and disappointment that most of these programs are targeted in this conversation. Parents noted that cutting instrumental music would raise expenses not save as more teachers would need to be hired to cover the smaller classes. Furthermore, the Outdoor Lab program has already been made self-sustaining by raising the cost for parents and requiring schools to pick up the fees.
“We would like the board to concentrate on funding the things that improve achievement; we would like to see the most exceptional teachers in Jeffco making over $100,000 a year. The proposed mill levy has no money for teacher raises and is not tied to any achievement gains,” Atwell said.
JeffCo Students First would like to see the board focus on those things that affect student achievement. Student must come first, and their outcomes are the most important goal. The fact is that 1,200 JeffCo third-graders are not reading at grade level and no amount of money will fix that unless we focus on what needs to change. This board seems to be unwilling to have an honest conversation with the community. They won’t tell you where improvements need to be made, and they won’t be honest about what it will cost. The goals stated in the mill language simply support a status quo that has not led to improved student achievement.
JeffCo Students First is a non-profit, non-partisan foundation dedicated to informing parents and the community about academic achievement and education spending in Jefferson County with the ultimate goal that all students in JeffCo have the opportunity to attend an exceptionally high-performing school.