Six D51 school board candidates agree: Don’t arm teachers

The six actively campaigning candidates for District 51 School Board agreed at a forum Thursday night the district is not ready for teachers with guns.

One of the three questions asked at Thursday’s PTA/PTO-hosted candidate forum at City Hall was what candidates felt would make schools safer. Candidates John Williams, Greg Mikolai, Pat Kanda, Tom Parrish and John Sluder said they are not in favor of an idea debated among members of a citizen safety committee earlier this calendar year to arm teachers to protect schools. Candidate Mike Lowenstein, who served on that committee, said the group agreed if the idea ever did gain traction, the school board would have to further investigate how to train participants and implement the program.

Parrish and Sluder, both instructors, said teachers should be able to focus more on teaching instead of taking on the added duty of security guard. Kanda said allowing teachers to carry guns would add “another administrative burden.” Williams and Mikolai said if families want armed people in schools, it’s more logical to have school resource officers handle the responsibility of carrying guns and consider finding a way for the community to fund more of those officers.

When asked about the district’s budget, Mikolai said District 51 is the fourth most efficient school district in the state and spends one cent of every budget dollar on central administration.

He said any future local funding would have to depend on community support.

Lowenstein said he is not in favor of a tax measure, particularly Amendment 66. Lowenstein said the amendment, if passed in November, could charge $1 in added income tax for every 50 cents it returns to the district. Estimates vary, but the Independence Institute estimates the figure may be closer to $11.5 million for Mesa County taxpayers for an added $9.1 million for District 51. That does not include the $14 million the district is expected to get from other provisions in Senate Bill 213, which is linked to Amendment 66, according to Colorado Legislative Council documents.

Sluder said he believes there is no fat to cut in the budget, but he wants more transparency about where funds go so he can see how much goes to paperwork and time-costing meetings. Parrish said he wants to examine how to save money “not for the sake of saving money,” but to see which programs are working.

Williams said District 51 is one of the lowest-funded districts in the country, something he said the community needs to consider solving. Kanda said higher expectations may be what the district needs.

“If you have that, class size become less important,” he said.


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