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Crestone Eagle, January 2005:
High School consolidation?
Legislation & finances making huge impact on the future of Northern SLV schools
by Mary Lowers
A group of teachers, parents, administrators, school board
members and citizens gathered in the round room at Moffat
School on the chilly evening of December 2, coming from as
far away as the neighboring Mountain Valley School District
in Saguache, to talk about the future of education in the
northern San Luis Valley.
Federal and State legislation, such as the controversial Federal
No Child Left Behind Act, or the Colorado TABOR (Tax Payer
Bill of Rights), Gallagher Amendment, or Colorado Constitutional
Amendment 23, are forcing small rural school districts to
worry about their future. School Board member Marta Shoman
expressed concern, "How can we continue to focus on education
when the engine driving the machine is dwindling quickly?"
Kai Beetch, Moffat School Board Member, explained that the
Board had completed governance training, encouraging less
micromanaging and more visioning for the future. Beetch called
the meeting the first step in getting a vision of the future
for the 500 square mile school district from its constituents.
The audience of twenty to thirty listened intently as Beetch,
Shoman, and Moffat School District Superintendent Eli Dokson
explained some facts about our district's situation, and some
"brutal facts impacting public education”.
Dokson explained that the Colorado Department of Education
(CDE), enforces Federal rules imposed on the state school
districts by the Federal government, and is connected closely
to funding of education. Currently the state standard for
student progress, or AYP (adequate yearly progress), is gauged
by the CSAP tests which Colorado students take yearly, and
has been achieved by the district two years in a row. "So
far so good,” says the superintendent, warning that
if a school does not make the AYP standard two years running,
the CDE could come in and take over the school! Because of
the low population of most rural districts, the accountability
system for school accreditation, reflected on the School Report
Card (SAR), can be a problem.
The Colorado tax structure, laws funding public education,
make our state "among the lowest in the country, according
to state taxable income," according to Dokson. Schools
receive funding from local sources through: current property
taxes, delinquent property taxes, and specific ownership taxes
(vehicles, boats, trailers, etc.) which the school districts
split with the county. Dokson reported that the sale of the
Baca Ranch will "hurt district tax revenue." In
Colorado Per Pupil Operating Revenue (PPOR), the budget for
education each student in the district is entitled to, is
"equalized" by the state.
Dokson assured the audience that Moffat Consolidated School
District is in good shape financially. Finances of both district
schools, Moffat School and the Crestone Charter School, are
closely monitored by the District. All schools in Colorado
face an uncertain financial future, and Dokson laments that
"you really have to be a tax expert to figure out school
financing." It was the hope of the superintendent and
board members that visioning future plans for the district
would put us one sep ahead of the educational funding conundrum.
Opening the meeting up for group discussion, Dokson reiterated,
"Our number one concern is what's the best education
to give our kids." The idea of a regional high school
that would serve high school age students from the Moffat
Consolidated and Mountain Valley School Districts, stirred
up discussion. The consolidated high school idea was seen
as a solution to facilities and equipment issues smaller high
Crestone Charter School Director Reynold Bean said he was
very interested in a regional high school, "providing
programs, lab classes, music and art that urban high schools
take for granted", and which provide the urban student
with an educational advantage, based on facilities, over his
Michele Hashburger, Principal of Moffat School, said a complaint
she hears and understands from students at the high school
level is that, "There are not enough kids" in the
high school. A regional high school would probably serve around
300 students; considered an ideal size for a high school.
It was pointed out that the financial situation required creative
solutions, like a regional high school, or the state will
come in and tell us what to do!
It was pointed out that Moffat has fought before for its life
as a district, and local school board members went to Denver
to keep the district's autonomy. Many in the group saw our
district as excellent because of its smallness. The power
of parents and community members to effect education was reinforced
by educators, administrators and parents. As Virginia Drake
said, echoing the spirit of the audience, "You have to
be brave enough to get what your child needs by working together."
The general consensus of the meeting seemed to be to further
pursue the idea of a regional, consolidated high school, keeping
in mind the unique culture of the existing three high schools,
Moffat, Mountain Valley, and Crestone Charter School's LINK
Program. It was acknowledged that prior to making this step,
along with financial concerns, plans should be instituted
to have the three schools interact more. It was seen that
community involvement in the schools was down in the district
over the last ten years and that efforts should be made to
increase school and community interaction, parent involvement
and a "life skills curriculum". Peter Peterson,
Mountain Valley School Board member, reflected the spirit
of the meeting, "As this process continues, what we are
trying to do is to put the kids’ best interest at heart."
Another visioning meeting will be held at the POA Hall on
January 1. If you missed the Moffat meeting in December, try
to attend the Crestone gathering. Our children are our future
and there are some important decisions to make.
Colorado Law impacting School Funding
Constitutional Amendment passed by voters in 2000.
1. Requires the legislature to increase education funding
by the annual inflation rate plus 1% through 2011-2012.
2. Creates a State education fund to circumvent TABOR.
TABOR (Tax Payer Bill Of Rights)
1. Requires voter approval for any changes in taxes or tax
policy causing a revenue increase.
2. Limits revenue collection to inflation plus growth (population/
3. Prohibits “weakening" other limits.
1. 45% of property taxes paid by residential taxpayers &
55% by businesses.
2. Market value of homes has come down to meet the market
value of businesses.