Warren Buffet said “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” A Greek proverb says “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” And B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine, said “It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.” These references are not exclusive to agriculture and gardening. They also relate to children and the fact that they are the future leaders of our world.
Our community and school district are in the proverbial “Spring” of a continuing trend of explosive growth. School District 27J, which covers Brighton, parts of Thornton and Commerce City, as well as a tiny sliver of Weld County, is one of the fastest growing in the state, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. More people means more kids, which means the need for more schools, and schools require teachers and supplies. With the passage of the bond in 2015, we have been able to build the new schools and increase seats and/or perform much needed maintenance and building updates to existing facilities. But bond funding only covers physical structures—in essence empty buildings.
Public schools are funded with tax money. Per pupil funding from the state has been cut several times over the last nine years. According to Colorado Legislative Staff, Colorado ranks 40th nationally in per pupil spending overall, spending an average $2,053 less per student annually than the national average for K-12 schools. In 1993, Colorado ranked 23rd in state funding putting us in the 54th percentile. Today, Colorado is ranked 43rd, dropping us to the 14th percentile.
The money that comes from the state, per pupil is the same amount statewide. The difference is in local funding based on property values (mills). School District 27J ranks 172nd out of 178 districts in the state in local funding. And as compared to the school districts in our immediate Denver Metro area, we are solidly 15th out of 15 with a combined state and local funding amount per pupil of $1,379 less than the Metro Denver average! How can we, as a community, realistically expect our schools to compare favorably to other school districts when our district is receiving so much less in funding. If we, as a community, don't invest in our own school system, to the benefit of the whole community, who will?
As reported recently in the news, Colorado is suffering from a severe shortage of qualified teachers. That means the task of hiring and retaining qualified teachers is made much more difficult if our district can not offer comparable salaries. Elementary grade teachers spend nearly as much awake time with kids as their parents do on average. That means teachers play a huge role in helping to guide the growth and development of our community’s youth. Doesn’t it stand to reason that we want to ensure our district is able to hire and retain the best possible educational staff to fill that role, to help guide our kids?
School District 27J has some amazing teachers—caring and dedicated professionals who have chosen to be here, and stay here… to guide and help grow our community youth. To ask them to continue to do so for lower than average wages “out of the goodness of their hearts,” when they can very easily transfer to a district that is able to pay better wages, is unrealistic and unsustainable for our community. If the tables were turned, would you stay in a community that didn’t care enough to recognize or support you?
As the quotes above state, we need to plant the seeds now to grow the shade trees of the future. That means passing the mill levy this November to increase our per pupil funding to a level that is at least comparable to surrounding districts. It’s time to step up and show that our kids, and our community, are worth it—worth funding to get us on a level playing field when it comes to building the educational foundation required to prepare our kids to succeed in the 21st Century.
Pledging to vote by August 22nd is the first step. It’s as easy as clicking this link and saying Yes! If you want to take it a step farther, join the Iam27j Team and help us pack the room at the August 22nd Board of Education meeting! RSVP here. Want to REALLY show your support, support the effort with a campaign contribution and/or sign up to volunteer to write postcards, walk neighborhoods, etc. There's lots to do, and plenty of opportunities for you to take part!