Colorado may have money for aging schools
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The Edison 54 school district east of Colorado Springs is so strapped for cash that when the well stopped working several weeks ago, superintendent David Grosche was forced to ration bottled water.
In Crowley County, school officials put a gutter inside a gymnasium to funnel away water from a leaky roof because they didn’t have money to fix it. And in Holly, school officials got a grant to buy cable wire to lash together the crumbling facade of the local school building.
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said that is unacceptable. On Thursday, he introduced a plan that would leverage up to $1 billion in funds from school trust lands ” farms, ranches and commercial property that are owned by the state to provide money for public education.
“Every child deserves a safe, healthy place to go to school,” Romanoff said. “It’s tough to learn when the roof is caving in or your desk is falling through the floor.”
Romanoff told the House Education Committee that 88 percent of Colorado schools have reported health or safety problems, but 80 out of the 178 school districts can’t raise enough money to fix them. Romanoff said many aging school buildings need to be replaced.
The committee heard testimony on Thursday and delayed a vote so lawmakers could study it.
Romanoff said hazards that turned up include failing roofs, structural failures, inadequate fire safety, and faulty, dangerous boilers.
Last year, lawmakers approved $349,000 in emergency funding to hire inspectors for public schools after documents obtained by The Associated Press showed that many Colorado public schools never received fire and building inspections.
Grosche said his district didn’t have the $5,000 it costs to fix the well. He said rationing bottled water to students was the only alternative.
“To me, it’s going to be my math textbooks for next year,” he told lawmakers.
The program, dubbed “Building Excellent Schools Today” or the BEST plan, sets up a study of needs, with projects to be picked over the next year.
Treasurer Cary Kennedy said the trust funds will be protected.
“This is legacy legislation,” she said. “Without raising taxes, and with cooperation and consensus, we are finding a way to rebuild and repair schools across Colorado.”
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