Colorado’s growth should benefit all families and communities, and all students deserve the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Fortunately, the state is expecting a budget surplus, and the aim should be to do better for students. Lawmakers will soon be debating what to do with these resources. That’s why we have launched the Kids Matter Too movement to connect Colorado students, parents, and teachers with lawmakers.
While everyone is committed to providing the best education possible, our schools are facing significant financial challenges. Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending. The lack of funding negatively affects critical student services, such as special education and mental health. In some cases, these important programs have disappeared altogether. On top of that, Colorado is facing a teacher shortage crisis that requires urgent action.
In Colorado, special education is severely underfunded. Only Arizona and Oklahoma spend less for students with special needs. State and federal funds for students with disabilities aren’t keeping up with increased special education costs, leaving school districts to put more of their general fund towards those services. We want to provide the best special education services we can because we know our children deserve it. Our students deserve better.
In light of recent events, mental health funding has been garnering a attention. More than 15 % of Colorado kids have some form of mental health issue, and alarmingly one out of five kids in Colorado has seriously considered suicide. At a time when enrollment is increasing in our schools, budget pressures have decimated the ranks of school counselors. This has caused the counselor-to-student ratio to widen at all levels of schooling. Our students deserve better.
And it’s not just these services that are suffering. Colorado also has a severe shortage of teachers resulting from a lack of support and training, as well as inadequate pay. Although teachers are continually being asked to do more, the average Colorado teacher’s salary is $7,000 below the national average. This makes it difficult to recruit talented teachers which hurts our competitiveness and our ability to provide students with a quality education. About 3,000 to 3,500 openings need to be filled for the coming school year alone. Our students deserve better.
Lawmakers need to hear from voters about the importance of school funding and the issues that Colorado families care about. There is always more need than resources, but we need to prioritize our children’s future and remind lawmakers that kids matter too.