Guest Column: Amendment 66: not a windfall but good for Garfield School District Re-2
By now, you have likely seen advertisements for Amendment 66 on TV, in the paper and in your mailbox. Amendment 66 is the ballot initiative asking for an increase in personal income taxes to support education.
The Garfield School District Re-2 board of education has not taken an official position on this measure. However, each board member has stated their public support for Amendment 66.
Our board does not view this as the singular solution to public education funding. Amendment 66 accomplishes some very positive things. It creates a more accurate accounting of students, moving from a singular student count day (Oct. 1) to an average daily count. Amendment 66 provides additional funding for pre-school slots and full-day, every-day kindergarten. Research is clear that early childhood education reduces the need for more costly interventions later in school. Amendment 66 provides additional resources for our most at risk, and our most gifted, students.
There are also some specific claims that may not apply to every Colorado district. Advertisements for Amendment 66 promise the return of music, art and physical education to the classrooms. In Garfield Re-2, despite state cuts, we have maintained music, art and physical education programs in our schools. Ads state that Amendment 66 will return free busing to schools. Garfield Re-2 has maintained our busing system free of charge, because we know that in so many cases, parents rely on our transportation system to get their child to school.
Over the last five years, in response to state cuts, Garfield Re-2 has cut nearly $5 million out of our budget, and we have tapped into our fund balance. As a district, we have tried to minimize the direct impacts to the classrooms. We are currently deficit spending about $1 million a year, but in about two years, Garfield Re-2 will have to stop spending our fund balance. For Garfield Re-2, Amendment 66 does not mean a windfall of new money for our district. We will see a modest increase in student funding, should it pass.
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For Garfield Re-2, Amendment 66 means that we will be able to operate as we are today for the foreseeable future. It allows us to implement all of the required new state reform measures – Educator Effectiveness Act, new Colorado academic standards, new assessments – with resources to support our teachers and staff. It means that in two years, when we are no longer able to spend from our fund balance, we will not have to make significant cuts – cuts that will almost certainly impact the classroom.
The Garfield Re-2 Board opted not to take an official position on Amendment 66, but each of us stands in support of this measure as individuals. We are sensitive to the fact that this is a tax increase. While Amendment 66 is not the perfect solution, it is a positive change that will provide resources our students, for our schools and our community.
Chris Pearson is president of the Garfield School District Re-2 board of education.
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