This community doesn’t care about education? Hogwash.

I have heard several people say the same thing recently: “This community just doesn’t care about education.” And why? Because last November a majority of voters elected not to support a mill levy override for District 51 funding.

I bristled the first time I heard that remark the day after the election, and it still bugs me to hear it nine months later.

First of all, the population of Mesa County is about 147,000 and it has about 102,000 registered voters. A mere 21,951 voted against the override while 14,415 for it. And just because 21,951 voted against the override doesn’t mean they don’t care about education.

Of the many different reasons those folks have said they voted against it, not a single one of those was “I just don’t care about education.”

There is simply no evidence to support the claim that “this community just doesn’t care about education.” In fact, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that our community cares deeply and actively about education.

We don’t have enough column inches here to list all the pro-education efforts in our community, but we can certainly look at a few, selected at random.

During (and despite) the rough economy, Mesa State College became Colorado Mesa University last summer. That happened only because of community support. This community doesn’t care about education?

Last October, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce — representing our business community — created and implemented the 500 Plan, a program dedicated to adding 500 volunteers, each committing to eight weeks of service working with elementary school students. This community doesn’t care about education?

Every spring the Art Center’s member artists volunteer to work with more than 3,500 local children. The Grand Junction Symphony reaches thousands more students through its annual Springfest music education program for the schools. This community doesn’t care about education?

This coming school year, the John McConnell Math and Science Center of Western Colorado will provide the majority of science curricula and classroom resources for every — yes, every — District 51 elementary school as well as after-school science “adventures” for the Extended Hours programs at 13 district elementary schools. The center is also hosting its own after-school, no-school-day and vacation-camps science programs in engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and environmental sciences for youth in first through eighth grades.

The Math and Science Center hosts school field trips for classes throughout Western Colorado, providing access to the center’s Exploratorium and hands-on, interactive science lessons.

The center is collaborating with New Emerson Elementary School on a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) magnet school project, which means the center covers all the science curricula for every single student in the school.

“Much of what we provide happens because of our contingent of college science, engineering, and teacher education students who work with us part-time to create and deliver programs,” center Executive Director Teresa Coons told me last week. “This summer we have 12 college students, mostly CMU students, working at the center, and we’re open to the public for hands-on science five days a week.”

District 51 high school students can even take an energy science and policy class through the Math and Science Center to earn CMU college credit. Oh, and the center attracts visiting families from around the state, the nation and even other countries.

This community doesn’t care about education?

There isn’t enough space in this entire newspaper to acknowledge all the educational support coming from businesses, nonprofit organizations and individual citizens in our community.

To say, “This community just doesn’t care about education” is an affront to everyone who works to show they care, including teachers who have taken on extra hours and larger class sizes.

How is it that one lost mill-levy override election gets more exaggerated lip service than the 500 Plan, the Art Center volunteers, the Grand Junction Symphony youth programs and the Math and Science Center combined when the subject of education in the district comes up? How about acknowledging, praising and promoting all those efforts?

Other communities may lack the imagination and tenacity to find a way around their education funding challenges, but we’re not one of them. We don’t do “victim” very well and certainly not for long. Our community identifies its problems and gets to work on solutions. They may not always be the best solutions, but we’re not afraid to try.

So to those who did vote for the override, consider a donation to the Art Center, the symphony, the Math and Science Center, the School District 51 Foundation or any local organization providing supplemental education support. The donations are tax-deductible, and the impact is direct and immediate. If your budget is tight, consider investing some hours with the Chamber’s Forum 500 Club or other school organization.

Those who believe this community doesn’t care about education need to educate themselves about what actually is occurring.

Krystyn Hartman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Might it be more accurate to say that this community does not want to PAY for public education? Just asking.

Those I spoke with who voted against said they didn’t want to pay for what they see as an aging institution; said they feel it’s time to modernize the system and that they would pay for that. I also heard many say that money is tight right now and any tax scares them. I did receive a slew of emails from this column so will definitely revisit this topic in future columns!—Krystyn Hartman

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