Why Doesn’t Colorado Legislature Care More About Education?
To The Editor:
It is estimated that Colorado will rank 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding for K-12 education during this 2009-2010 school year. With the budget cuts currently contemplated by our Legislature, some fear we will rank at the very bottom for 2010-2011. Colorado will spend almost $2,000 per student less than the national average, and nearly half of some eastern seaboard states. Lest one claim that the ‘east coast’ is a different world, this year Wyoming spent $7,750 more, Nebraska spent $3,250 more, Kansas spent $2,275 more, and New Mexico spent $1,450 more, per student than the State of Colorado on K-12 education.
Ten years ago, frustrated with the Legislature’s inability to adequately fund public education, exacerbated by TABOR, the voters in Colorado approved Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution. This amendment required K-12 spending to be increased by inflation plus one percent each year for ten years, and then by at least inflation thereafter. The intent was to ‘catch Colorado up’ by 2010-clearly it did not work. Why?
The amendment even included a clause establishing and maintaining a ‘State Education Fund’ to ensure that money would be available to fund K-12 spending, in the event of a turn-down in the economy. So why didn’t it work?
It turns out that our legislators are playing a ‘shell game’ with education funding. The legislature is ‘funding’ the required amount of monies to the school districts statewide, on paper. However, the actual money does not come to the districts until the end of the year. Essentially, by the time the funding should arrive, it’s not all there. Funny thing though, the legislature is telling districts in advance that this is going to happen, and estimating the amount of the shortfall for them. (For the Park R-3 District alone, this ‘shortfall’ is projected for 2010 to be over six hundred thousand dollars). In effect, everyone knows that K-12 funding is being cut, but a game is played to ‘meet’ the requirements set forth by the public ten years ago.
This is an astonishing and deliberate end-around the constitution of this state! The voting public in Estes Park proved that it cares about public education by passing the bond issue in 2006, substantially improving our schools and programs. How can anyone honestly expect our youth to adequately rise to the challenges they have before them in a highly competitive, rapidly changing, global economy if our message to them is that we don’t want to spend money on their education?
Please show your support once more by writing to your legislators, State Senator Kevin Lundberg, and State Representative B.J. Nikkel, and ask them to honor the Constitution, avoid handcuffing our schools with drastic budget cuts, and support the development of the future citizens of our state. (It’s very nice here; they’ll probably want to stay…)
The Park R-3 District Advisory Committee