Ted Hughes testified today. He directs the capital construction office at CDE and the BEST grant process. BEST stands for Building Excellent Schools Today and is designed to help districts with school construction related to health and safety issues.
Ted Hughes said:
- BEST is particularly geared to help under-funded schools.
- If you don’t qualify for a BEST grant, you must use local resources to meet capital construction needs.
- At a minimum, every school should meet basic health and safety needs.
- There are $17.9 billion in identified in state capital construction needs under most recent study.
- Most rural districts don’t have facility expertise.
- I don’t believe school districts are intentionally trying to damage their buildings or not take care of them.
- Some schools in Rocky Ford are unsafe.
- Sheridan School District facility needs significant.
- There is a gap between dollars available in BEST and needs of the entire state.
Elaine Gantz Berman also testified this afternoon. She’s a former Denver school board member and currently state board of education member.
Elaine Gantz Berman said:
- She supports S.B. 191 and is aware that cost for implementation “will run into millions of dollars.”
- Race to the Top (federal) application was supposed to help with implementation help.
- The state is now turning to private dollars and grants for resources.
- We have a state school finance formula, but we leave it up to school districts to seek additional resources.
- Rural areas have a hard time attracting and retaining high-quality teachers. They leave for better-paying positions.
- The state sets academic standards from dance to math, social studies to world languages.
- There will be a cost to school districts to implement SB 191 (the educator effectiveness legislation).
- Generally, a school district cannot waive out of state requirements.
- There are reasonable estimates that the cost of implementing S.B. 191 will be $70 to $80 million.
- Colorado is now on “Plan B” to raise money, far short of needed funds.
- Colorado is among lowest states in per-pupil funding.
- CDE (state education agency) does not have sufficient resources to do its job.
- CDE does not support rural school districts the way it should.
- Colorado needs to rewrite the school finance act so there is more equity among school districts.
- Colorado needs to rewrite the school finance act “for many reasons.”
- The 2011 legislative priorities for state board were topped by the goal of preventing further cuts to schools.
- Increasing salaries for teachers and administrators will help attract and retain better staff.
- Colorado has one of the widest achievement gaps in the state.
- Colorado one of the worst achievement gaps in the country.
- State has never conducted a study to determine costs of implementing the school system it has drawn up.
- All school districts in Colorado should have the same high school graduation criteria.
- Countries that have the highest level of achievement have common standards and common curriculum.
- Local control prevents all school districts from setting the bar high.