School District 51's Board of Education voted unanimously to support statewide education funding measure Amendment 73 on Tuesday night, citing the ongoing funding deficit from the current school finance formula.
If passed, the amendment is expected to increase statewide education funding by $1.6 billion in 2019-20 and would increase District 51's share of state funding by nearly $30 million.
Board members considered and tabled a measure supporting the amendment at an Oct. 2 work session, citing concerns about not being presented with all arguments for and against the measure, as well as not knowing how the money would be spent in District 51 if it passed.
Board President Tom Parrish said those concerns were alleviated by board members doing individual research into the issue.
Before the vote, Parrish said he's always been hesitant as a board member to support ballot initiatives, but Amendment 73 would clearly address the many needs in District 51.
"We've been waiting since 1992 for the right initiative at the right time, and here we are 26 years later waiting for the right initiative at the right time, and I don't believe in the state of Colorado there's the political will or operation to have the perfect solution," Parrish said. "I have to put my faith that Amendment 73 is the right initiative at the right time."
Rev. Jeffrey Dodson, a minister at First Congregational Church in Grand Junction, addressed the school board during a public comment session and asked them to support the measure.
Dodson said he frequently interacts with students at schools across the Grand Valley, both as a parent and as a faith leader.
"I believe Amendment 73 is going to help our schools in ways we haven't been able to help them before," Dodson said. "Our schools are a centerpiece for our community and faith leaders understand that. We understand how vital our schools are and that our children are some of our most valuable resources."
Mesa Valley Education Association President Heather O'Brien said she was excited that school board members supported the measure. "I know some people are hesitant to make constitutional amendments, but there are already constitutional amendments in place that are hamstringing funding for public education," O'Brien said. "Thirty million (dollars) for District 51 is a game-changer, we can stop borrowing from Peter to pay Paul for the programs we really need."
According to school board member Doug Levinson, some of the programs District 51 could support with funding from Amendment 73 include all-day kindergarten, reinstating classroom aides, decreasing school bus walk distances, pushing back start times for middle and high schools, increasing base teacher pay and increasing funding for programs like music, art, athletics and special education. The board's resolution also includes an authorization for District 51 to create and distribute "a factual summary regarding Amendment 73."