Dr. Sue Chandler—Superintendent, Adams 14
- Adams 14 is the highest poverty district in the Front Range; 79% of students qualify for free lunch. Poverty exists across all schools in the district. This level of poverty in the schools is reflective of the overall poverty in the surrounding district.
- The school district has limited resources to create curriculum; the state does not provide funding for the creating of curriculum.
- With the exception of the newly constructed high school, the schools in Adams 14 were built in the 1950′s. Classrooms are very small and very old. It would take about $350 million to renovate or update all buildings, but every school in the district is in great need.
- Adams 14 has an 11% SPED student population in the district (one of the highest in the state); it is a very high cost program to meet the needs of these students with very limited reimbursement from the State.
- Ms. Chandler is concerned that many students are not ready for college or the work force.
- Adams 14 looks at three risk factors for its students: those who qualify for free and reduced lunch; students who are learning English; and students who qualify for special education services. From 2005-2011, Adams 14 has seen an increase in the number of students in one or more of these risk factors grow from 8% in 2005 to 30% in 2011.
- Teachers in Adams 14 are entering a classroom environment in the district where they need to learn to be adept to meet the needs of its diverse student body. There are many successful strategies that can help these teachers develop the necessary skills through ongoing personal development, but this requires more resources that the schools don’t have.
- 10% of the student population in Adams 14 is homeless. The district used to have programs that served both the students who are homeless as well as students who are at risk. However, with the reduction in funding, this program can only serve homeless students.
- If a student is not healthy, then it is hard for a student to be learning. This is a significant issue for the schools. 1,200 high school students accessed school health clinics last year, 79% of the students were uninsurable, and would not be able to access health services any other way.
Lillian Leroux—Parent and foster parent of students in Adams 14 school district, Commerce City
- Concern that her kids aren’t life skills or college ready because there is no money in the school district to meet their needs.
- Several of her children qualify for special education services, which were reduced over time, even though their skills were not improving.
- She believes that teachers and schools doing the best they can, but she is not happy with overall education her children are receiving because of the lack of resources put into schools.
Rollie Heath–State Senator
- Member of Senate Education Committee, Chair Appropriations Committee
- He and his family came to Colorado in the 70’s, at a time that education funding was much higher and the quality of schools was better.
- He has worked in the private sector and knows that a highly educated work force and high quality schools are essential to attracting and retaining businesses in Colorado.
- Believes that economic development is dependent, in part, on a high quality P-20 education system.
- The Colorado General Assembly increased standards & mandates but provided no financial support to school districts. This makes no sense, either for education, or in a business setting. If you increase expectations for a business, you would also analyze how to support financially the increased expectations.
- Bright Colorado: Could not have had Legislature refer the measure, so he had to collect sufficient signatures to have measure on the ballot.
- The state has reduced taxes (income and state). The initiative will take us back to 1999-2000 tax levels and the money should go back into education; however, the initiative makes no structural changes to SFA (school finance act).
David Hart–CFO for Denver and former CFO for Douglass County.
- Explained how the Colorado School Finance works using illustrations and the CDE Excel worksheet for school funding.
- Five parts to school funding. School Finance Act (SFA) includes two of the five: 1) State Funding and 2) District Mill Levy
- The rest of the total money comes from: 3) Federal Funds: subject to funding changes and earmarked for specific programs and/or student populations, 4) Private: Gifts Grants Donations, focus driven and usually time limit of 36 months—after which the funds are gone. 5) Mill Levy Override: outside of SFA. District directed. Local control. As of 2010-11 only 108 of 178 districts have Mill Levy Overrides approved by their voters.
- District Mill Levy Overrides (MLO) are outside the SFA. Designed to enable districts to fund local extras/programs. MLO now used to backfill what the state doesn’t fund.
- Legislative action freezing SFA District Mill Levy and creating the Negative Factor in SFA designed to decrease funding at state level. Not designed to meet student outputs defined by legislation.
- District Bonding capacity (Bond election) to build schools or make building repairs cannot be used for the operational needs within a building i.e. teachers, energy costs, transportation, programs, etc. Bond elections outside of School Finance Act.