March 11, 2014
|The Honorable John W. Buckner||The Honorable Rhonda Fields|
|The Honorable Spencer Swalm||The Honorable Daniel Kagan|
|The Honorable David Balmer||The Honorable Jovan Melton|
|The Honorable Morgan Carroll||The Honorable Kevin Priola|
|The Honorable Linda Newell||The Honorable Paul Rosenthal|
|The Honorable Pat Steadman||The Honorable Su Ryden|
|The Honorable Nancy Todd|||
As you begin the critical business of determining the funding for public education for the 2014-2015 school year, we are asking you to begin paying down the negative factor in a way that respects the right and responsibility of locally-elected school boards to make decisions on how to best serve the children in their individual communities.
After several years of reduced revenue, the state finds itself in the enviable position of having more than $1 billion in the state Education Fund. We respectfully ask that you begin to restore funds required under Amendment 23 - without earmarks.
The Cherry Creek School District continues to lose $61.4 million in state aid every year due to the negative factor. In addition, in the last four years, the District has cut nearly $39.7 million from the General Fund, resulting in deferral of maintenance, elimination of some key programs, and the loss of over 340 full-time positions.
The Cherry Creek Board of Education worked with staff and community members to keep reductions away from the classroom. During the last several budget cycles, we held public meetings and worked with our parents and community to protect class size and retain excellent classroom teachers. We are proud of what we accomplished in the Cherry Creek School District without any state mandate.
To mitigate the impact of the loss of state funding, in 2012, our voters approved a $125 million bond issue and a $25 million budget override. Despite voters' support, the Cherry Creek School District is operating today on the same per-pupil funding as it did in the 2007-2008 school year. Since the 2007-2008 school year, our district has grown by more than 3,000 students, and we are facing increasing costs in transportation, materials, building maintenance, and safety and security.
To ensure that we can sustain the level of excellence for which the Cherry Creek School District is known, we must begin to restore the funding that has been lost. Our community has been clear about its priorities, and we have worked diligently to fulfill them as our district changes.
For example, nearly 45% of our students are children of color, a 17% increase in the last decade; 28% of our students are currently on free and reduced lunch, more than double the number 10 years ago; 12% are special needs, and 10% are English Language Learners speaking 126 different languages. Parents want the best educational opportunities for their children. To meet the needs of every child we need programs that serve all students, including those at risk, those who are gifted, and students with special needs. The Board of Education must also continue to fund programs that meet the needs of its diverse learners.
We respectfully ask that the lost funding be restored in the same way it was taken away – without one-size-fits all, untested mandates designed to solve specific problems in other school districts. Locally elected school boards and their chosen leaders are the best experts of what is best for their students. Local control has allowed us to make painful cuts without unduly compromising academic achievement. Therefore, local control should determine the best way to restore funding.
The Cherry Creek School District has a tradition of academic excellence and fiscal responsibility that illustrates we are good stewards of our community's trust in our Board of Education. We ask that you respect this trust and avoid creating mandates that have not been proven to increase academic achievement. The Cherry Creek Schools should be able to determine the best way for us to continue our growth, and we pledge to act responsibly, with transparency, and with the support of our community.
Now that House Bill 14-1292 has been introduced, we need your help to shape it into a public education finance bill that will truly provide the necessary funding for the Cherry Creek School District. This funding will ensure that the Cherry Creek School District can continue to fulfill its mission "to inspire every student, to think, to learn, to achieve, to care."