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School reform: El Paso and Pueblo school districts send letter to state

Colorado School Districts Speak Out

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It may be the trickiest job of the year for the Colorado Legislature and it's being tackled this week; the long-promised effort to salvage school reform efforts.

But not everyone is on board with the proposed plans.

Every school district in El Paso and Pueblo counties are standing up to state lawmakers asking for help.

"The 'oomph' behind that letter from superintendents is very powerful. They're widely acknowledged as the experts in education. Generally speaking, superintendents are very busy and don't get too engaged in politics at the capital," said Glenn Gustafson, chief financial officer for School District 11.

But that's not the case this year.

School district superintendents are getting together and speaking up for their students.

"It's a big deal, we're talking about a unified presentation from the K through 12 experts in Colorado saying this is important. It's a really big deal," said Gustafson.

In Colorado there are 178 public school districts. The letter that was sent to the governor is filled with signatures representing 168 of them.

"Now it's time for us to backfill our cuts. We've closed 14 schools, we've increased class sizes twice, we've frozen pay for four year, we cut pay with furlough days, we've eliminated instructional programs, we've differed maintenance and we've cut administration by the greatest percentage of any part of our budget," said Gustafson.

This year's reform attempt includes $100 million to school districts to backfill budget cuts.

"Frankly, it's not enough. We think it should be more there is $1.6 billion sitting in the state education fund," said Gustafson.

Major education groups also think that money comes with too many strings attached.

"Now that they're going to give us back the money they're going to put strings attached to it and say you can only spend it on this. So they have basically preemptive our local control. Local control knows that best. We know the things that will drive student achievement in our district," said Gustafson.

Votes on the proposals have not been set, but many expect the session to be a lengthy process.


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