Statewide Coalition of Parents and Educators Calls on Lawmakers to Provide Critical Resources for Kids
Denver, CO – Today, an ad hoc coalition of school districts from across the state have banned together to launch the Kids Matter Too Coalition. This statewide coalition of parents and educators is calling on lawmakers to ensure Colorado’s growth benefits families by increasing funding for schools. Districts across the state will be hosting events next week to raise awareness of the critical needs of their communities.
School Districts are coping with a teacher shortage crisis, shrinking funds for special education, and inadequate mental health services. Next week, the state budget projections will be released, and many expect a surplus. Lawmakers will be making decisions about what to do with this additional funding, and Kids Matter Too Coalition members from every corner of the state are calling for additional funding to benefit students.
“We often hear in the news about the strength of the state’s economy, but our schools are still reeling from drastic cuts during the recession,” said Brian Ewert, Superintendent of Littleton Public Schools. “Colorado is nearly last in special education funding, and we are dead last in teacher salary competitiveness. Additionally, at a time when access to mental health services in schools is paramount our school counselors are completely overloaded. Our students deserve better, and now there is a possibility we may just have the resources to ensure we can.”
Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding and 50th in teacher salary competitiveness. There are more than 3,000 shortages that need to be filled in the upcoming school year alone.
State and federal funds for students with disabilities also aren’t keeping up with district’s increased special education costs. Only Arizona and Oklahoma spend less on special education services than Colorado, and students with special needs are dealing with the consequences.
“All kids deserve to receive the best education possible so that they can reach their full potential,” said Walt Cooper, Superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District. “An investment in our children is an investment in our future. These additional resources will allow us to recruit and hire top notch teachers and improve critical services for our students so that we can provide our children with a good education and ensure the competitiveness of Colorado’s economy.”
In addition, funding additional mental health services is more than just a resource to help student’s succeed, it’s a student safety issue as well. At a time when enrollment is increasing, budget pressures have decimated the ranks of school counselors. This has caused the counselor-to-student ratio to widen leaving fewer resources for kids at all levels of schooling.
“Our schools are severely underfunded, and many rural students and teachers are feeling the brunt of it,” said John McCleary, Superintendent of Holyoke School District. ”95 percent of rural teachers are being paid under the standard of living. There are always more needs than resources, but lawmakers need to hear that adequately funding our schools is something voters care about.”
Background on Teacher Shortage Crisis:
Colorado has a severe shortage of teachers resulting from a lack of support and training tools, as well as inadequate pay. Although teachers are continually being asked to do more, the average Colorado teacher’s starting salary is nine percent below the national average (Colorado Department of Higher Education, 2017). This makes it difficult to recruit talented teachers which hurts Colorado’s competitiveness and 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. Colorado is 50th in teacher salary competitiveness, 49th in the number of new teachers entering classrooms, 41st in pupil-teacher ratio, and 42nd in per pupil spending. (Great Education Colorado)
Background on Special Ed Funding
Only Oklahoma and Arizona spend less than Colorado on special education services. The federal government contributes less than 10% and the state contributes less than 20% directly to school districts. That leaves local school districts to cover the remaining 70% of the cost of special education, from state and local revenue sources (about $82 million) (Colorado Department of Education).
Background on Mental Health Services
Kids come to school with a variety of personal situations yet are expected to perform. More than 15 percent of Colorado kids have some form of mental health issue, and alarmingly almost one out of five kids in Colorado has seriously considered suicide (Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 2015). Budget pressures have decimated the ranks of school counselors, causing the counselor-to-student ratio to widen leaving fewer resources for our kids at all levels of schooling. For every $1 the state spends on counselors, it saves $20 in social safety net services.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Contact: Erin McCann