Column: We need solutions for Jeffco public schools

Joe Webb
Posted 9/7/22

Public education is a huge topic in our county and it deserves a bit of a closer examination.

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Column: We need solutions for Jeffco public schools

Posted

Public education is a huge topic in our county and it deserves a bit of a closer examination. When I went to the Jeffco Schools webpage, I discovered that Jefferson County Schools serve 69,000 students. Naturally I wondered how many school age children there are in Jefferson County. According to US Census Data Quick Facts, there were approximately 580,000 people living in Jeffco as of July 1, 2021. Of that amount as of the same date, 18.9% were under the age of 18, and 4.8% of Jeffco is under the age of 5. That means there are roughly 81,700 school age children in Jefferson County. Of that amount, 12,700 children in Jefferson County either attend a private school, are homeschooled or for whatever reason are unschooled. As an aside, it can be credibly estimated that almost 30% of school age children nationwide are outside of the influence of public schools if you include the children who attend charter schools in that figure.

That is about 15.5% of all school age children in Jefferson County. For whatever reason the parents or guardians of these children are dissatisfied enough to not utilize Jeffco schools and they make the financial and personal sacrifices necessary to ensure that their child gets a quality education. If they are a property owner, their property taxes help to support Jeffco Schools despite their choice not to avail themselves of county schools. If they rent, then their landlord has calculated the amount of property tax they will have to pay into the rental price. Renters too support Jeffco Schools without voluntarily receiving any benefit because their children are in private schools.

With the passage of time, the number of children outside of the influence of public schools will grow. That is in part because of the dissatisfaction with public schools that is already held. If a business continues to lose customers to the competition that loss would prompt that business to reexamine its model in an attempt to find out what it is doing wrong. When that business is a government entity like the IRS then the entity’s monopoly allows it the luxury of ignoring any dissatisfaction. Public schools do not possess a monopoly like the IRS but they do seem to act like it. This is a foolish long term strategy that will cause the public schools to lose more pupils to private.

What happens to public schools when 50%of school age children nationwide are not enrolled in them? What happens to Jeffco schools when 50 percent of school age children are not enrolled in them? It may seem preposterous to think of outcomes like what I just stated. It will take time for both of these assertions to come to pass but they will if dissatisfaction with public schools remains and more controversy feeds that unhappiness. Those with control over public schools need to realize a tipping point does indeed exist for both parents and taxpayers. Solutions like tuition tax credits and letting money appropriated for a child’s education follow that child whether they are in public or private schools could come to pass with enough children outside of the public school system. The tipping point will come unless a dramatic turn around occurs.

Joe Webb is the former chairman of the Jeffco Republican party.

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