District 27J kicks off campaign to press Legislature on funding

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By Crystal Nelson

HENDERSON — School District 27J kicked off its Year of the Student campaign Jan. 29 at Prairie View Middle School, aimed at educating the community on the state of Colorado’s education system and urging legislators to fully restore funding to schools.
    Guest Speaker Lisa Weil, co-founder of Great Education Colorado, said the Year of the Student effort is about motivating the Legislature to take action for Colorado schools.

    “We want the Legislature to take this year to create and find funding for an education funding system — preschool all the way through higher education — that matches all the reforms and standards and accountability requirements — everything  that we expect from our schools — to match it up with the resources necessary to make sure that every student is successful,” she said.
    According to Weil, Colorado has been a leader in educational reforms, yet funding for these reforms have decreased. Weil said the state ranks 40th in student-teacher ratios, 41st in technology, 49th for its achievement gap and receives $2,518 less per pupil than the national average. She said Colorado is $1 billion behind keeping up with student growth and inflation.
    Brighton 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler said over the past four years, the district has experienced $48 million in cuts and that to be fully funded this year the district would need to receive $19 million in additional funding. According to Fiedler, 27J ranks 172 out of 178 school districts in the state in funding.
    Parents and teachers attending the kickoff event said these cuts have resulted in paying fees to ride the bus, fewer electives available to students, increased class sizes and fees for athletics.
    In order to fix the problem, Weil said the time is right for change given the amount of voter support during the last election. She also pointed to the recovering economy and the need to remind legislators to ensure new revenues go towards education. She also said legislators could refer a general tax increase to the voters but never have.
    “This is the year that we should turn things around. This is the year when we should focus on what’s good for the students because we know when we do that, when you focus on what’s good for the students you’re focusing on what’s good for families and what’s good for communities and what’s good in the long-term for the economy,” Weil said.
    She encouraged those who attended to talk to their legislators and sign a call to action to be delivered to their legislators at the capitol.
    For more information on Year of the Student, visit the organization’s website at www.2013forstudents.org.