Re-1 Superintendent Stacy Houser told the Free Press the impacts of school-funding cuts are being felt system-wide - in aging facilities, larger classes, a smaller staff, and a chronic shortage of supplies.
"Certainly the facilities are a problem.
That hits us every day," Houser
said the education-funding crunch can be traced back to passage of the TABOR tax-cutting act in 1992, or even to the state's 1982 Gallagher Amendment, which effectively reduced residential property- tax assessments.
Critics have said that "throwing money at the problem" won't solve it, but money certainly is a factor in a quality education, Houser
"I can't throw out a figure and say, 'This correlates to student achievement,' but in a struggling community like Montezuma County, to say that money does not help - that is tremendously short-sighted.
I think the funding does directly impact student learning in our district."
For instance, he
said, four years ago 70 percent of first-graders were coming into the classroom with a below-grade-level vocabulary.
"That happens coming into the schools, not IN the schools," Houser
Re-1's four-day week, adopted to save money, also has a detrimental effect, making scheduling much tougher, Houser
"It makes it more difficult to get all those needs met for the different groups in a classroom."
has seen no evidence that lack of money affects teacher performance, but it certainly affects retention, particularly when there are districts an hour to the south, east or north offering higher pay.
was the one that suggested it.
"Amendment 23 was intended to offset some of the ratcheting-down and keep K-12 above the tax cuts," Houser
said, "but the last three years that did not happen, because of the state's finances."
Over the past three years, Re-1's budget was cut $1.5 million, $1.5 million and $1 million, Houser
The entire Re-1 budget is approximately $28 million.
"I'm hearing we can expect the same-size cut for the coming year," he
"Every year you think this is the last time, but word is they're looking to make up another $500 million shortfall.
"If we have to cut another $1 million or $1.5 million, I totally don't know where it's going to come from," he
"I told the principals last year that the cuts we make are going to have direct impacts on students and families."
A measure on the November ballot, Proposition 103, would raise the state sales and use tax from 2.9 to 3 percent and the state income-tax rate from 4.63 to 5 percent for five years.
The expected $3 billion that would be generated would go to public schools and higher education.
But even if it passes, Proposition 103 is not a remedy, just a way to keep education from sustaining further cuts over the next five years, Houser
"There is going to have to be a statewide, maybe constitutional, remedy and I'm hoping Lobato will be the instigator for that."
said educators look at achievement standards and say, "How can we achieve those goals with the cards they dealt?"