Hickenlooper plan to slash school funding draws fast response from education group

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper rolled out a budget plan Tuesday in which he proposes trying to make up hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls by mostly slashing elementary school funding. His plan would cut the K-12 budget by $375 million. Wednesday morning advocacy group Great Education Colorado sent out a call for Coloradans to oppose the Hickenlooper plan. The group succinctly describes how the costs will translate around the state and at local schools.

Great Education Policy Director Lisa Weil writes that the cuts come to an average of $497 lost per student. At her son’s middle school, she says, that would amount to more than $400,000 in lost annual revenue.

The cuts would throw thousands of Colorado elementary school teachers out of work.

Schools throughout the state already offer only four days of classes per week. According to a 2009 report (pdf) from the Education Commission located in Denver, roughly 67 of 178 school districts in the state run four-day school weeks. Most of those schedule 7.5 hours per day for 144 days rather than the usual 6 hours per day for 180 days.

Class sizes continue to grow as do the number of students in the state public school system overall. In 2008, nearly 16,000 more children attended Colorado schools than did in 2007, even as local revenues declined.

For years, Colorado has ranked low in spending per student (pdf), and Hickenlooper’s proposed $375 million cut comes directly on the heels of the $260 million cut from K-12 passed last year by Governor Bill Ritter and the legislature.

From Weil’s letter asking supporters to write their lawmakers to oppose Hickenlooper’s budget:

Yesterday, the Governor proposed a budget for the coming year, calling for $36 million in cuts to higher education and $375 million in cuts to K-12.

That comes to an average of $497 per student. For my son’s middle school, that would amount to a cut of more than $400,000.

There are already 35 kids in each of my son’s core classes. Every day, I’m grateful for the hard work of his dedicated teachers.

But now I am afraid to find out what next year is going to bring. Even larger classes? Fewer electives? Less individual attention? Less support for students and teachers?

This is NOT OK.

What will $500 per student and deep cuts to higher ed mean to the students in your life?

If these cuts aren’t OK with you, please join me in signing the Great Ed letter to state leaders, asking them: “do you understand the real impact that multiple years of cuts are having on Colorado students and are you OK with that?”

The Denver Post referred to the K-12 cuts in this budget proposal as “the biggest hit in state history” — and that’s on top of a cut of $260 million dollars last year. We need our state leaders to feel the heat and start creating innovative and realistic alternatives to these devastating cuts.

Please take just a few seconds to sign our letter and, if you like, tell your story. Then be sure to forward this email or use our simple tools to spread the word to other public education supporters.

Thank you for making a difference.

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