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Vail Valley Voices: Schools need 3B’s funding

Michael Johnston
Vail, CO, Colorado

I visited a school two weeks ago in Boston, an impressive district school that has made dramatic turnaround in just one year.

When speaking with the principal, I asked how they use their resources to provide interventions for struggling readers. In his answer, he casually referred to their per pupil funding numbers and I stopped him.

The state of Massachusetts — the highest performing school system in the country — spends more than $13,000 per student every year.



This year, Eagle County Schools will spend just $6,741.35 per student, over $6,000 less per student than Boston Public Schools will spend.

In simple math, this means that in that one seventh-grade classroom where I sat, a typical classroom with one teacher and 25 kids, Massachusetts was spending $150,000 more than Eagle County would, in just that one classroom.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



With such a drastic disparity in funding at the classroom level, it is difficult to imagine the same quality of services and education between these two classrooms.

I have long advocated that Colorado needs to reform our education system. Colorado has now taken on some of the most courageous reforms in the country, but to implement those policies well, we must also provide the revenue necessary to sustain quality.

Some folks have asked why the statewide ballot measure, Proposition 103, has a repealer but 3B does not. The only reason 103 has a repealer is to make clear that it is not an adequate long-term solution — it is merely a tourniquet.



The long-term fiscal solution will require coming back to the voters for a more comprehensive adjustment to TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23.

In the meantime, by adding back on a mere $8 per month to the assessed value of a $500,000 home, the 3B mill levy override will raise $6 million that will stay local, an amount that still does not equal the $9 million that Eagle County Schools has had to cut from the budget over the last two years.

This modest change won’t begin to put Eagle County anywhere near Boston in terms of per pupil funding, but it will mitigate state budget cuts by preventing further cuts to core programs, restoring critical classroom positions, and retaining quality teachers.

The Eagle County School District has made impressive gains over the last four years: Both free lunch and non-free lunch groups are growing academically every year, and achievement gaps are beginning to close.

Eagle County is gaining a statewide and national reputation for its leadership on teacher evaluation and compensation.

With great influence comes great responsibility.

In this instance, it is the responsibility to make sure Eagle County’s public schools can continue to implement these reforms at the highest levels. I encourage voters to support 3B to ensure progress continues.

Michael Johnston, a Vail native, represents northeastern Denver in the state Senate.


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