By Sheridan Block
As the Colorado school finance reform bill heads to voters in November, the Ouray school board is still struggling to see the benefits of the bill to the district.
During its regular board meeting on Monday evening, the school board was to take action on Amendment 66, a resolution in support of the ballot initiative (Senate Bill 13-213) to increase funding for education.
"I personally am not ready to either support or oppose the resolution," said chairman Mike Fedel. "I've been reading through the legislation… If I had to vote tonight, I'd vote no."
The other board members agreed with Fedel's stance, voicing their concerns with how the bill might affect the district. Board member Jerry Hellman said he doesn't know what the exact impact of the bill will be on Ouray School, however he pointed out that he was skeptical of the language in the resolution, particularly where it reads "reduced funding is directly impacting the district's ability to provide meaningful educational opportunities for all students and to implement existing and proposed education reforms" and "the increase in state tax revenues will liberate state funds for spending in other significant areas of need in Colorado."
"I don't believe that," said Hellman.
Instead of taking action on the resolution this week, the board decided to table the conversation as members gather more information and understanding of the bill.
Signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, SB 213 focuses on increased funding for kindergarten and preschool, school districts with higher concentrations of at-risk students and English language learning students and special education. The bill also makes additional payments to districts for the cost of implementing the reform mandates.
However, the bill won't go into effect unless voters approve an income tax increase to pay for its costs, which total up to $1.1 billion for the full annual cost of the bill. If voters approve the tax increase in November, the new system will not begin until the 2015-16 school year. Should voters go against the bill, it will remain "alive" for five years, allowing supporters to try again in the future.
Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), primary author of the finance bill, is expected to make an appearance in Ouray County this fall to promote SB 213. However, the dates has yet to be determined.
"I have a hunch that this is bigger than us," said board member Kentee Pasek. "I have a hunch this is trying to get the whole resolution passed… If they can get a number of schools to support it, then it looks great."
In other business Monday, the school board:
- received a report from KURA station manager Nancy Nixon on the status of the local radio station. "The health of the radio station is very good but I'm worried about the future," said Nixon. Her concerns included aged equipment, costs for replacements and licensing fees, as well as fewer and fewer underwriters each year. The board agreed that the station is very much supported and the community would not let the station die. "This is essential to our school and our community," said Dean of Students Di Rushing.
- signed off to send letters to parents regarding the multiple diplomas transition for this year's sophomores, juniors and seniors. Students interested in pursuing an endorsed diploma must take Advanced Placement or college courses this year, must be part of a club or activity and must complete ICAP testing. Students have until Friday to add or drop classes as necessary.
- approved the appointment of new teacher Lezah Saunders. Saunders will work as a part time high school math teacher this year.
- heard an update from Southwest Colorado EAGLE-Net representative Pat Swonger regarding the connection to the broadband network at Ouray School. See page 3 for updated EAGLE-Net story.
- reviewed drugs, alcohol and tobacco policies of the high school athletics and activities handbook, specifically sections 5.1 (in season consequences) and 5.2 (out-of-season consequences). The board will continue to review policies and proposed changes during its Sept. 18 work session at 4:30 p.m.