Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on Amendment 66
November 1, 2013
This year we have the opportunity to add an additional $4.3 million to our local public schools by voting "yes" on Amendment 66.
If we do not approve Amendment 66, what would be better? This amendment funds Senate Bill 213 which passed last year and spells out exactly how the money will be spent. SB-213 was spearheaded and championed by Sen. Mike Johnston, a former educator who is a parent with kids in public school. Five years in the making, SB-213 includes additional funding on a statewide level for full day kindergarten, special needs children, gifted and talented learners and innovative education grants. It also gives our local schools the ability to use a portion of the funds for the needs of our community. It specifically does not allow any of the funds to be used to "bail out PERA." Is this perfect? Probably not. But what would be better, and when would be better timing?
If not now, when will we improve our local community by improving our schools? In Eagle County, it is exceptionally hard to hire professionals. First, housing is expensive which discourages relocation. Next, because of the widely held perception that the public school experience is inferior, potential employees with kids may feel the need to consider paying tuition to attend a private school instead of registering for public school. For many, housing costs plus school tuition make Eagle County an undesirable work location. How many large businesses have left the county in search of high quality employees? Who will you hire in your business? How will our businesses continue to compete if they cannot recruit quality employees? This effects our local community.
If not now, when will you acknowledge that having large classrooms with students with widely diverse needs is a difficult teaching and learning situation? Imagine a science teacher with 37 students in her class. Two of the children are labeled "gifted", one is a "special needs" child, 15 of the kids are English as a second language learners and the remaining 19 children are native speaking kids that are regular learners. In this situation, which children get most of the attention? Which children are lost in the shuffle? Amendment 66 gives additional funding to schools, so that they can pull out gifted learners, special needs kids and ESL students for small group instruction, which also makes the group of 19 English speaking kids a smaller group. If we don't fund changes now, when is the right time to improve funding for our diverse school population?
If not a state income tax, what will improve funding for our schools? After three years and losing over $14 million in state funding in Eagle County, we have continued to work to improve the education system in Eagle County. Our district has won grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, superintendent of the year, educator of the year awards, while suffering budget set-backs. Two years ago, our community did not pass a mill levy for schools. We heard that people distrusted the leadership of our district. Now, we have a new superintendent. We heard that people wanted fiscal transparency. Now the spending areas are spelled out in SB 213 with transparency rules. If not now, when? If not Amendment 66, what will help our local schools and our community?
Please vote "yes" on Amendment 66!