Our View: A Colorado Community Media editorial

Editorial: It’s time to answer the call for our schools

Posted 10/16/18

Worn-out rugs installed 25 years ago contain asbestos, chipped floor tiles trip students, teaching positions are cut to pay for critical building repairs. Students wear coats to stay warm when the …

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Our View: A Colorado Community Media editorial

Editorial: It’s time to answer the call for our schools

Posted

Worn-out rugs installed 25 years ago contain asbestos, chipped floor tiles trip students, teaching positions are cut to pay for critical building repairs.

Students wear coats to stay warm when the heating system fails, roofs leak, classes are taught in mobile classrooms because there isn’t enough room inside.

And teachers leave in droves because they can make more money — much, much more money — in some neighboring school districts.

Douglas County School District, many parents and educators say, is at a crisis point: It needs money to keep its buildings safe and provide the nurturing environment that ensures optimum student learning. To provide not only college-readiness programs but also those that teach the technical skills businesses want and need. And to recruit and — most importantly — retain the quality teachers needed to maintain and grow the district’s excellence in education.

We agree.

It’s time to step up to the plate, to put our money where our mouth is, as one teacher who left DCSD in 2015 — for a job in Cherry Creek School District that paid her $14,000 more — put it so succinctly in last week’s paper.

Toward that end, Colorado Community Media urges voters to support Ballot Issue 5A, a $40 million mill levy override, and Ballot Issue 5B, a $250 million bond.

The override is key to improving teacher and other staff salaries. The bond — which also would be used for charter schools — will pay for critical and urgent repairs at aging schools, new construction, career technical education, security upgrades and transportation.

If both measures pass, the owner of a home valued at $474,000 would pay about $208 a year more in property taxes. That’s $17.33 a month — the equivalent of three or four Starbucks coffee drinks.

There’s no question the lack of funding since 2006 — the last year a local bond was passed — has directly affected the quality of schools and learning environment. The detailed report from the district’s citizen Long Range Planning Committee, which pushed for a bond measure, attests to that.

There’s no question, as statewide data shows, our teachers are earning less than their neighboring counterparts — up to an average of about $18,000 less than teachers in Cherry Creek School District and $13,000 less than peers in Littleton Public Schools.

The high-achieving district also is committed to making sure we know how the money from the measures is spent, by creating an accountability committee to monitor expenditures, providing regular updates to the community and subjecting those expenditures to an external audit.

The school district’s seniors were in kindergarten the last time voters passed a local bond 12 years ago. Voters rejected bond proposals in 2008 and 2011. Yet our schools are teaching 17,000 more students than in 2006. Our buildings have continued to age and some have become more crowded, without sufficient resources to keep up.

“We want to only ask for what we need right now to address our immediate needs,” Superintendent Thomas Tucker said.

The question often becomes, he added: “Do we support instructional achievement and our teachers over fixing a broken pipe, a roof in one of our elementary schools?”

It’s time that we — as a community — ensure that question no longer has to be asked.

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