Updated: Jan 6
There are a few perennial issues in Colorado. Water comes to mind, as does transportation. But I don’t think there is a more important one than education, particularly K-12 education.
One of the reasons for that, of course, is the state’s school funding mechanism. I won’t go into detail here about how it works. It is complicated, needlessly, I think, and subject to the vagaries of inflation, the number of at-risk students in any given district, local property tax revenue, and various and sundry other factors.
But what it means for Mesa County is abundantly clear. When all those factors are taken into account and the number crunching is completed, Mesa County School District 51 is, as it has been for many years, near the bottom of the heap in funding from the state.
District 51 this year will receive state funding of $8,501 per student. It is very near the bottom of the state’s 185 public school districts.
The statewide average for per-student funding is $9,000. The math is pretty simple: District 51 faces an $11 million shortfall to catch up to the state average.
The Colorado Public School Finance Act was enacted in 1994. That was nearly three decades ago. It’s time — actually, it is past time — that it be revamped.
Add to those already dismal numbers the fact that the average salary of a full-time teacher in Colorado is $60,600; in District 51 it is $52,400. District 51 is fortunate to have many, many talented and dedicated teachers. But those salary figures create yet another problem for the District: Recruitment and retention. Some school districts have tried to solve that problem by lowering teacher standards. That is no solution at all.
It’s a cliche, I know, to say that our most valuable resource is our children. It’s also true. If I am fortunate enough to become your legislator, I will go to Denver with education at the top of my list of priorities. Our children deserve nothing less.