Sound reasons for conservatives to support Measure 3B
By Janet Rowland
The decision to support a tax increase is not one I take lightly, but I believe there is a conservative case to be made for passing the mill levy override — Referred Measure 3B — for School District 51. For me it is about the conservative values of local control, doing more with less and personal responsibility.
The reason local control in government is so important is that it’s easier for citizens to hold local governments accountable.
District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz and the staff at District 51 do not fear transparency or accountability. They continually look for solutions, they welcome reform and they are making improvements. They are proud to share their successes and they own up to areas needing improvement.
Clifton Elementary School is just one example of the improvements the district is making. In just two years of making changes at Clifton Elementary, the achievement of students has increased by double digits in every category except one. The school was able to make those improvements because of a Title I grant.
As a result, plans have been developed to make similar improvements all across the district. But, in the face of potentially another $8 million in cuts, on top of the $28 million that have already been cut, the ability to make those changes won’t come quickly. However, the revenue from 3B is local, has no strings attached and can be used for similar improvements.
Local control also allows us to differentiate our teachers from those we hear about on a national level. When we hear stories about the rubber rooms in New York, or teachers in New Jersey refusing to give up a 1.5 percent pay increase for a year, we are outraged. And rightfully so. But we should be careful not to assume that all teachers are like that.
That is certainly not the case in Mesa County. In District 51, our teachers have not taken a pay increase in three years, but they have taken five furlough days, which has resulted in a decrease in their salaries. District 51 is accountable, and because the money from 3B is local, it will be equally accountable.
Doing more with less:
Budget cuts are not necessarily all bad. In fact, they push government to be innovative and find efficiencies. District 51 is doing more with less, and has been for many years. Since the early 1990s, District 51 has been among the lowest-funded school districts in the state. The average school district in Colorado receives $8,200 per student per year. District 51 only receives $6,100 per student. The difference is equivalent to over $18 million per year. This district has been doing more with less.
I’ve been especially surprised to hear fellow conservatives explain that they are opposing 3B because the district’s budget it too fat or too top heavy. Yet those same people have never read the budget or even looked at the specific cuts that have already been made.
It wasn’t too long ago that members of Congress voted in support of Obamacare without ever having read the bill. We were outraged by that. So how is it any different to take a position on 3B, based on a budget one has never read?
As state Sen. Steve King has mentioned numerous times, we simply cannot expect the state to adequately fund our education system in Mesa County. The state didn’t adequately fund us when times were good and it sure won’t do so during these tough economic times.
We currently have three votes out of one hundred in the Legislature, and giving District 51 more means giving another district less. Don’t look for that to happen. Therefore, we must take personal responsibility for the education of our children, and not expect the state or federal government to do so.
The argument that says, “I don’t have kids in District 51 so I shouldn’t have to pay,” misses the big picture.
Currently, you may not have children in the public school system, but if you previously had kids in public school, someone else helped pay to educate them. If you have children in the future, someone else will help pay to educate them. If you run a business, someone else helped pay to educate your employees. If you are receiving Social Security or Medicare, those programs will be funded by a workforce that someone else helped pay to educate. We all benefit when our children are well-educated.
I don’t like taxes either, but I’d much prefer paying taxes to a local government that I can hold accountable, especially when it funds a service that is essential for all of us.
Vote “Yes” on 3B.
Janet Rowland is a Mesa County commissioner.