by Matthew Crowley

Moffat Consolidated School District #2 (BOE) board members and Superintendent Kirk Banghart gathered at the Capitol building in Denver on Monday, January 11 to rally for a restoration of funding to public schools.  Sixty of Colorado’s 178 school superintendents as well as board of education members, parents, teachers, students, press and a few state lawmakers attended the rally that took place in the Capitol rotunda.  Timed to take place two days before the start of the 2016 state legislative session, the purpose of the rally was to ask state lawmakers to begin to restore some of the $5 billion (that’s right billion with a “B”!) that has been withheld from Colorado school funding since 2010, through an obscure legal/legislative maneuver called “the negative factor.”  At the very minimum statewide superintendents are asking that the lawmakers not impose further cuts.

Kirk Banghart, Superintendent of Moffat Consolidated School District #2, which includes both Moffat School and the Crestone Charter School, was one of three speakers at the well organized rally which was also well attended by the statewide media. Banghart was recently appointed President of the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance and is active statewide in advocating for adequate school funding for all of Colorado’s children, particularly those in rural and often impoverished school districts. He was quoted from his speech by Denver media saying, “At a time we should be strengthening our schools we are falling behind. Our responsibility is to advocate for a level playing field for Colorado’s children. All students deserve the opportunity for success.”

District BOE members Krissy Russell-Hedstrom, Tina Freel and Matthew Crowley went to the rally in Denver to show their support for our superintendent and to advocate for a return of adequate funding for our schools.  Colorado currently ranks 43rd in the nation and $2,704 below the national average in per-pupil funding.  Among the lawmakers in attendance was Senator Mike Merrifield, a former educator with a strong record of supporting public education in Colorado.  Merrifield said he’s “cautiously hopeful” but “not optimistic” that lawmakers will agree on a solution to school funding this session.  “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” Merrifield said. “I was first elected (to the state legislature) in 2002, and we’ve never seriously found a solution to the underfunding of the public education system in Colorado.”

Our own district’s state representative Senator Larry Crowder, who recently visited the Crestone Charter School campus, was also one of a small number of lawmakers to attend the rally.  Senator Crowder took the time to come to the rally and to speak personally with Superintendent Banghart and the BOE members following the rally.  Director Freel, who is a 4th generation valley resident who herself graduated from the Moffat High School, shared stories with Senator Crowder about the real-life costs of these cuts in funding being a loss of electives, vocational training and other programs from the curriculum due to budget cuts as well as the extreme challenge of attracting and retaining high caliber teachers.

You can help

Contact Senator Crowder: larry.crowder.senate@state.co.us or by phone at 303-866-4875.  Thank him for his recent interest in our district’s schools and for attending the rally.  Encourage him to join with other state legislators and to vote to begin repaying the debt owed to Colorado’s schools.  Senator Crowder’s vote and support may be crucial in the upcoming legislative session.  Show your gratitude and let him know his voters care.

We are fortunate indeed to have a choice in schools in such a small and impoverished district.  There is always a need for parent and community involvement.  Contact our state representatives, attend BOE meetings and Charter School Governing Council meetings, serve on these boards and volunteer in the schools.  Our children are counting on you.  You can and do make the difference.  To learn more about the idiosyncrasies and sad state of the State of Colorado’s funding for PreK-12 public schools, have a look at the following websites: www.cosfp.org and www.greateducation.org.