Dean Massey: Teachers are the foundation of education, not facilities
I recently attended a public forum regarding the education funding ballot measures and was disappointed at the “all-or-nothing” approach taken by advocates on both sides of the issue.
I am a recently retired high school science teacher with 20-plus years of experience in private and public sector prior to entering the teaching profession. I strongly support public education, but I believe we should demand clear evidence to support our public policy decisions.
There is almost no question that we live in one of the highest cost of living locations in the U.S. and yet our teacher salaries rank somewhere near the lower one-third nationally. Teaching is an incredibly challenging profession, and it is the teachers, not flashy facilities, that are the foundation of education. I believe we are a community, which supports education and has a responsibility to address the issue locally. As in anything, you get what you pay for, and if Steamboat is to maintain excellence in education, we need to attract the very best teachers, so I support 4A without hesitation.
On the other hand, 4B and 4C are almost entirely without merit. Contrary to the recommendations of this newspaper and CC4E the district combined $27 million of necessary improvements to existing schools with a new $52.5 million school in a cynical effort to eliminate voters’ ability to have a choice.
Steamboat’s population will continue to grow, but Census Bureau data for 2017, summarized in a May 5, 2019, article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, shows that the over-65 age group increased by 55% while the 25-to-64 age group increased by only 1.7% since 2010. Similarly, the proponents’ slick literature admits that K-5 enrollment has been declining since 2015. The overall enrollment in Steamboat’s “four traditional” schools declined again this year to 2,491, only 26 students over the 2,465 student “capacity” cited by the proponents.
This is not a situation demanding a new K-8 school. A more common sense solution is to remodel/expand the high school and middle school to accommodate the current fourth- to ninth-grade bubble of students moving through the system and then look to build another school in the future when the population impacts associated with the west side developments can be better understood.
So, to support excellence in Steamboat’s schools simply follow the evidence — support 4A, reject 4B and 4C and demand a common sense approach to managing growth in our schools.
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