Opinion: Steamboat teachers organization urges ‘yes’ vote on Amendment 73 | SteamboatToday.com

Opinion: Steamboat teachers organization urges ‘yes’ vote on Amendment 73

We are writing to urge our community to vote “yes” on Amendment 73, also known as "Great Schools, Thriving Communities."

One of our government's most important functions is to provide children with a high-quality public education. It is the backbone of our democracy — an educated populace creates a better society for all of us economically and intellectually and should not ever be a partisan issue. We know we must adequately fund our schools, yet we are not currently meeting that challenge in Colorado.

This is our opportunity to fix the state education funding formula so that our students receive the education that they deserve. Amendment 73 will remedy that formula without increasing taxes for the vast majority of hardworking Coloradans.

Amendment 73 fixes a statewide school funding formula that has long been broken. In 2008, Colorado cut education funding, investing roughly $2,800 less than the national average​ per student — trailing even Mississippi and Alabama — and offers the least competitive teacher salaries in the country​.

Colorado's economy is among the most robust in the nation, yet our students must compete with students from fully funded states. Since 2011, the legislature has used education money to stabilize the budget, thus cutting school funding by $7.2 billion, while our economy has otherwise soared.

As a result, school districts have had to stagnate teacher salaries, increase class sizes, limit mental health and counseling services and narrow course offerings. Amendment 73 would put a stop to that raiding of education funds and would guarantee that the money earmarked for public education is actually spent on public education, with local school districts having the discretion to use the funds according to local needs.

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Steamboat Springs is no exception. Many of our teachers work two or three jobs to make ends meet, with less time to focus on teaching, and are often still unable to live in the community that they serve. We have lost countless talented teachers who cannot afford housing.

Our schools are overcrowded. Class sizes are huge. We have suffered cuts to multiple academic and arts programs, and our mental health and counseling services are severely underfunded, all while our growing population has increased need for those services. Our students and our community deserve better, and Amendment 73 is our opportunity to restore adequate school funding to our students and schools.

Amendment 73 would revise the current the tax code, making it more equitable for hard-working Coloradans. Ninety-two percent of taxpayers would see no increase in their income taxes, and business property owners, farmers and ranchers will see a tax decrease, while corporations and incomes over $150,000 would see slight incremental increases. Amendment 73 provides more equitable and sustainable funding for our public schools while ensuring that Colorado and Steamboat remain economically competitive.

Public education matters to all of us who care about our children, our economy and our future. As stewards of that future, we have a responsibility to ensure that public education is adequately funded to keep Colorado competitive and to maintain an educated workforce and an informed citizenry. Money matters if we want smaller class sizes, livable educator wages and effective mental health resources.

The $7 billion disinvestment in our schools over the past decade will have serious consequences, and the longer we wait to start investing in our schools, the higher the price tag. Steamboat schools have felt the sting of these cuts, and Amendment 73 is our opportunity to address these shortages. We urge Steamboat to join other communities, school districts and families across Colorado in voting “yes” on Amendment 73.

Thank you,

Steamboat Springs Education Association executive board

 

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