Amendment 39 offers the 65 percent solution |

Amendment 39 offers the 65 percent solution

Midterm elections always bring out differences in opinion. Garfield County has some issues on the ballot that involve school districts and education – and opinions are plentiful on these, as they always are when it comes to education and how to spend the money allocated for it.One of these ballot issues, Amendment 39, stipulates that each school district statewide must spend a minimum 65 percent of its operational expenditures on specified classroom expenses by the 2007-08 financial school year. Each district will be audited at the end of the school year to determine if they have indeed met the requirement. If a district fails to meet the mandated 65 percent, the state Legislature would have the authority to impose sanctions on the specific school districts. Districts below the 65 percent cutoff would have to increase classroom spending by 2 percent every year until they reached the amount stipulated.”The main goal of the amendment is to increase the amount of money on the core mission, which is the achievement of students,” said co-author of the amendment Michelle Austin. “Most schools think that more money is the answer to the problem, but it’s actually where the money’s directed that is the solution.”According to Austin, Colorado school districts spend on average 57 percent of the operational fund on classroom expenses, ranking the state 47th out of 50.”Only three states spend more on administrative positions than us,” she said. Austin said Amendment 39 follows the practices of the top 10 states in the nation, yielding a better education as determined by standardized tests. “If it were a business, we would look at the top 10 percent and mimic what they were doing,” Austin said. “The core idea is to help the kids get the education that they deserve by spending more on those who have direct contact with the students.”However, amendment 39 has seen its share of opposition, especially here in Garfield County.”We don’t need to mandate, by constitutional amendment, the way in which the school districts should spend their money,” said Garfield School District Re-2 Superintendent Gary Pack. “I am very much against it.”Amendment 39, according to Pack, would require school districts to re-evaluate their spending in order to meet the state law. He believes that each school board and district has different needs to be met from year to year and that it should be left to elected school officials and school board members to determine the best way to disburse funding.”Colorado is supposed to be a local control state,” Pack said. “It’s a good idea to spend that much on classroom needs, and there are some districts that already do. But there is no flexibility in the amendment, and that is the problem.”Districts would have to examine their cost structure and adjust the accounting practices to abide by the rules and regulations of the amendment. Districts that did not meet the required 65 percent of classroom expenses beginning in 2007-08 would have to find a way to comply with the new stipulations.According to the Colorado Legislative Council Web site, data from the 2004-05 school year determined that 166 of 178 school districts statewide would be impacted by the requirements of the amendment, with $278 million having to be reallocated. Schools not able to meet the 65 percent requirement and unable to increase spending by the 2 percent would have the option to appeal the requirement to the governor, who can waive the specified district for the year.”It does allow for flexibility,” Austin said. “It’s important that this be part of the state constitution because if it’s not, the state Legislature could come back and make it meaningless.”Other area superintendents oppose Amendment 39 as well. Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said that she “very much opposes it” because it would cause school districts to “eliminate other services” such as counseling, transportation and food service.But, according to Austin, the food service has a net revenue of zero and would not be affected.”The food service is paid for by the students who buy lunches or is assisted by the federal government,” Austin said.Garfield County School District 16 Superintendent Steve McKee stood by his fellow superintendents by saying that the amendment isn’t consistent with the needs of the students.”A lot of the areas that include benefits for the students aren’t included in it, like transportation and counseling,” McKee said. “It’s comes down to the issue that the amendment doesn’t include all of the student-based services. If it did include all of them, then it wouldn’t be a problem.”Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext.

Amendment 39 would require school districts to allocate 65 percent of their operational funding to classroom expenses.Classroom expenses are defined as:• Teachers and personnel providing direct support to the teachers, such as aides or tutors• Supplies and equipment used for instructional purposes• Libraries and librarians• Instructional services provided to the school district from outside programs• extracurricular activities including, but not limited to, athleticsOutside classroom expenses include:• school district office services such as accounting, budgeting and other districtwide operational tasks• salaries and benefits of school administrative and support personnel such as principals, administrative assistants and nurses• salaries and benefits of central school district personnel related to general school district administration• operations and maintenance of facilities

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