Local school board to vote on whether future boards should be compensated
In May, Colorado passed a law that would allow school board members to be compensated for their service
Earlier this year, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill that would allow school board members in the state to be compensated for their service. Up until this point, Colorado school boards have been comprised entirely of volunteers.
However, advocates of the new law argued that by compensating board members, it could make the service more feasible for more community members. Essentially, the idea is that by increasing accessibility to serve, it would also increase diversity.
As part of the bill, which Gov. Polis signed into law in May, lawmakers provided some guidelines for the amount of pay — members can only be compensated for official board days, and the compensation cannot exceed $150 per day for more than five days of service per week. However, it was left up to school boards themselves to determine whether they would pay members and how much they would be paid.
While the Eagle County Schools’ Board of Education has discussed the matter, the board will bring the issue to a vote at its Wednesday board meeting.
The proposed resolution will make any board members elected on or after Nov. 2, 2021, eligible to receive $150 per day that the member attends any official meetings of the board. The resolution will also include a maximum number of days — and therefore, amount of compensation — that each member can receive annually. This threshold has yet to be determined.
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On Wednesday, the board will vote on these stipulations as well as establish other compensation and reimbursement amounts. Per the resolution as written, this would become effective Dec. 1, 2023, for all board members elected on or after Nov. 2, 2021. This is intended to ensure that the board members voting on the resolution would not be voting to compensate themselves.
There are currently 11 candidates, two of which are incumbents, running for five open in this November’s election. Should this resolution pass, non-incumbent candidates that are elected would be the first Eagle County Board of Education to be compensated, but not until the end of 2023.
Previously, the local school board has expressed mixed opinions on the matter of compensation — some have expressed that compensation could open the doors for more individuals to serve, while others have expressed that the amount isn’t enough to make a difference.
“I am totally mixed. Part of me feels like the compensation would help open up to more people who could come and be able to do the job because missing hours and having to pay for child care is a significant burden and we really want to make sure that we’re opening up the possibility to serve in this role to as many people as possible,” said Kate Cocchiarella, school board president, at the Aug. 11 meeting. “But on the other side, when it comes down to it, the money is coming from the general fund and that money goes to kids.”
Michelle Stecher, current board member, echoed that it could open up the ability to serve to a “broader population in the community.”
“I don’t think any of us are here to make money off of it, obviously, we’ve volunteered our time and hopefully others would, as well,” Stecher said. “But sometimes there are costs and burdens associated with making that sacrifice, whether it’s sacrificing or trading out hours of work income or other costs with child care and what not. I would support it on some level.”
Cocchiarella later said that with the amount allowed, “You are not going to be able to quit your day job but you may be able to pay for a babysitter.”
Others have expressed that the voluntary aspect of serving on the school board adds something to the service itself.
“I don’t have strong feelings, either. I think on a personal level, it’s easier when you’re not compensated to have assurance that you’re doing it for the right reasons,” said Shelly Jarnot, school board member, at the Aug. 11 meeting, adding that of the small amount, “I get it, you’re not going to get rich, but I think it’s just easier when you don’t have to feel like you’re being paid.”
This sentiment was echoed by board member Ted Long in a previous interview with the Vail Daily.
“In my opinion, paying someone to serve on the school board doesn’t seem to fit right with the narrative of serving the public,” Long said. “It’s just something we do to help benefit our communities, and that fits better with the narrative to me than let’s give them a little stipend or whatever.”
The Eagle County Board of Education will vote on whether to approve the drafted resolution for board compensation at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will take place in person at Red Canyon High School at 395 McGregor Drive in Gypsum.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.