School Views: A community united
Eagle County Schools
Even though our community is in the midst of enduring hardships and making sacrifices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, your school district has a lot for which to be thankful. On Election Day, 73% of the community voted in favor of Issue 5B to continue essential local funding of the district.
On behalf of our students and staff, we extend our gratitude to the entire community for your support. How the parents in the community have worked collaboratively with us every step of the way is surely a bright spot in an otherwise tough period. The spirit in our community may be fatigued by the pandemic, but it remains strong in its support of one another and our towns.
Other state-level initiatives may also have positive influences on school operations. The repeal of the Gallagher Amendment loosens the stranglehold it has had on the funding of local services, including education. Combined with TABOR, Gallagher served to only tighten and restrict funding by driving residential property taxes ever lower while increasing commercial taxes. The impact of this repeal is still dependent on COVID-19’s continuing impact on state revenues, but we do expect it will help stabilize public education funding in Colorado in the long run.
The passage of Prop 116, the reduction in state income tax, may reduce state revenue and initially offset gains from the Gallagher Amendment repeal. Again, this is an issue — personal taxable income — that is still being impacted by the pandemic, so it’s hard to project its true effect right now.
Prop EE, the nicotine tax, intends to have a strong positive impact on funding universal preschool in the future. Realistically, we have to look down the road a few years before we start seeing the preschool benefits of this initiative. However, Colorado ranks third in youth use of vaping products containing nicotine, so we are hopeful that the increase in cost serves as a deterrent.
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Finally, Gov. Polis’ initial budget for next year is supportive of public education. Of course, this will change through the legislative process, but it is starting out in the right direction. Districts have feared ongoing and lasting negative reductions in school funding due to the pandemic. Financial conditions remain fluid and volatile, but the initial budget speaks to the governor’s intent — stabilize school funding.
Eagle County School District, like all other districts in the state, has little influence on how the state funds public education. The lawmakers decide, we respond. The one area of variability is how the local community chooses to support its district through mill levy overrides.
Our community turned out in large numbers to provide the support that flows to the educational experience of its children, and we are deeply appreciative. This is the one lever the community controls to stabilize school funding, and by passing 5B we can continue to offer the best possible learning experience to our children.
Many districts ask us how we’re managing to keep students in school, and our answer is simple: relationships. Our partnerships with our community, with the Department of Public Health, and with our staff — fueled by the collective love of our children — continue to make this possible. Thank you for your support, your patience, your understanding, for working together so we can keep learning together.
Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.