State of school funding for Jeffco

Column by Jason Glass
Posted 2/13/19

Spring is right around the corner and the Colorado legislature is back in session. While the work of teaching and learning happens in our schools, these coming months are also a time when we get …

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State of school funding for Jeffco

Posted

Spring is right around the corner and the Colorado legislature is back in session. While the work of teaching and learning happens in our schools, these coming months are also a time when we get serious about budget discussions.

This year’s budget process is made more complicated (in a good way) by the passage of ballot question 5A, which will bring $33 million more dollars into Jeffco Public Schools this budget year, and about $34 million more next year.

Some 50 percent of the district’s funds were earmarked for employee compensation through a board of education resolution. Presently, we are working with our employee associations to determine the best way to provide that to our employees, but the good news for Jeffco Public Schools staff members is that they can expect a bump in pay this spring.

5A also included funds for increased mental health supports to improve school safety, career/technical education, increased student access to technology and curricular materials, and expanded early childhood education.

We have budget decisions to make for those funds in the current year, and going forward.

Looking to the next year, we will combine 5A funds with those that come to the district through the school finance act, a bill passed by the legislature each year that sets school funding for Jeffco and all other districts in the state.

Governor Polis issued an initial budget similar to Governor Hickenlooper, indicating a commitment to funding education at inflation and making some incremental progress in returning us to pre-recession levels. This is a good starting point, but we will need to advocate with the legislature to make sure education gets its fair share among the many competing priorities with which the legislature deals.

Governor Polis also has fully funding kindergarten as a major policy priority. We are in touch with the Governor’s office and our legislators on this to provide feedback on how this policy might impact Jeffco Public Schools.

While we are certainly supportive of providing access to kindergarten more equitably in Jeffco and across the state, we will continue monitor to see what the final bill language looks like.

In all, we are both grateful to our voters for the gifts from 5A and 5B (our bond for construction programs), and we are optimistic about the early prospects for school funding from the state.

Still, we are nearly $70 million annual underfunded compared to pre-recession levels. While the legislature and Governor are to be commended for working to close this gap – we still feel those effects on a daily basis on our schools.

In sum, we should be able to do some positive things for our students, employees and community in this budget cycle and we should take heart for that. We will still be faced with tough choices and budget tradeoffs, but things are getting better – and for that we continue to be grateful to our community.

Jason Glass is the superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools.

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