School Views: Getting more for our students, teachers, and staff |

School Views: Getting more for our students, teachers, and staff

The educational funding model in Colorado is broken. Colorado ranks 50th out of 50 states in Teacher Wage Competitiveness, according to Great Ed Colorado, which advocates for increased state education funding. Colorado is 45th in the percent of taxable resources spent on education. The state spends about $3,000 less per pupil annually than the national average, according to quality counts done by Education Week.

To give a real-world application of that number, in a classroom of 25 students, that equals $75,000 a year. The math says Colorado doesn’t value kids or educators, and it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a teacher in Colorado.

While I continue to reach out to state legislators asking them to fund our schools before it’s too late, there are local efforts that can be taken by the school district. In the interest of increasing wages, making facility upgrades and repairs, and looking out for the safety of our students and staff members while fostering an educational environment that prepares students for the next stage of their lives, Eagle County School District is considering adding a funding initiative to the 2023 ballot.

Bonds and mill levy overrides are important avenues for school districts to pursue additional funding. A bond request asks two things: Can the district take on additional debt? And can the district increase your property taxes to pay off that debt?

A bond can be implemented without a tax increase if property values have gone up. A mill levy refers to the rate charged to homeowners for property taxes. The state sets the mill levy in each school district and that money pays for a portion of a school’s base operating budget. When a school district wants to ask for money above that rate, it’s called a mill levy override and can only be done by asking the voters for approval. These are the two tools we have at our disposal. Eagle County School District is currently considering both as potential ballot questions in the November election.

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We saw the support of our community in 2016 when voters approved an $8 million mill levy override, and again in 2020 when they overwhelmingly reaffirmed that mill levy override and removed the sunset clause on those funds, which was set to expire this year. Those funds have gone towards things like increasing salaries for our entire staff, converting June Creek Elementary School into Edwards Early Learning Center, providing every student with a computer, and improving security infrastructure at every campus.

While we strive to increase pay rates in order to attract and retain quality educators, there are a number of other endeavors that require funding. Our facilities need upgrades, such as maintaining and repairing roofs at schools throughout the district. The Gypsum Early Learning Center, which we hope to begin building in the not-so-distant future, will require us to meet ever-rising construction prices to better serve the early childhood needs of Eagle County.

In the next month, Eagle County School District will send surveys to gauge the public support for such ballot measures. We ask that you take time on the survey and make an informed decision. We’re grateful for the support of the community we’ve seen over the years, and look forward to seeing what more we can accomplish for the youth of Eagle County.

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County School District. Email him at

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