By Pam Linquist
In November, Jefferson County voters have very important decisions to make. The outcome on ballot measures 3A and 3B will affect Jefferson County Public Schools forever, because if they fail, we all lose.
Both sides have valid points regarding Jeffco’s education, but one side doesn’t solve our immediate need today.
If 3A/3B fail, we forever lose programs such as band and orchestra in the elementary schools. That means no more instrumental music for hundreds now and thousands of future students. Instrumental music is introduced to most students at the elementary level. Susan Foster, 26-year band/orchestra teacher for five mountain elementary schools, said instrumental music cultivates a child’s brain power in math, their feeling of success, and establishes strong social skills. She also shared that at West Jeff Elementary, increased TCAP scores from low-proficient students last year to proficient or advanced this year had one thing in common — they were all in instrumental music.
If 3A/3B fail, we will forever lose the teacher/librarians in the middle schools. Today’s librarian is not just about checking out books but is the cornerstone of the implementation and teaching of technology as it pertains to student learning and application to their education.
Debbie Richards, teacher/librarian for Evergreen Middle School, and principal Kristopher Schuh have a goal to graduate EMS students with the best technology training. Debbie has written and teaches a Computer Applications class that fosters this learning for students and teaches teachers how to apply cutting-edge technology in their teaching. Without our teacher/librarians, our students lose technological proficiency with the rest of the world.
One area of misinformation is that 3A/3B has something to do with teacher pay and/or teacher retirement. This simply is not true. In fact, we voters will never be able to vote on retirement funding (PERA), as this is mandated by the Colorado legislature.
If 3A/3B fail, there will be fewer teachers to teach, which means the classroom sizes grow to a size that makes it virtually impossible for teachers to teach effectively. Teachers, in my opinion, teach because they love to teach. To increase the size of a classroom to where they can’t teach each child effectively may cause many to give up and leave.
We know that 3A/3B will indeed cost money (one dime a day based on an average home value of $250,000), but what needs to be considered is the overall negative economic impact if it fails. If they pass, Jeffco schools will receive $39 million annually with almost $32 million going to retain 396 teachers, 40 instructional coaches, 17 counselors and 43.5 teacher/librarians. The total economic impact from these salaries multiplies six times in the local economy to an estimated $190 million when spent for food, clothes and other needs by these retained employees. Most of the $7 million difference is dedicated to restoring two days of instruction that are currently furlough days.
One of the strongest incentives in voting for 3A/3B is to keep property values high. Amy Rabbio, enrollment secretary at Bergen Meadow elementary, said that in most cases families inquire about the school before they look at buying a home. She said that 30 new families enrolled in the Bergens this year.
With so much at stake, let’s come together as a community and district and vote to save these important programs and jobs. The opposition has solid long-term ideas but nothing for us to vote on to save what is at stake today.
After the election, why don’t both sides work together to present their constructive comments and suggest direction to the Jefferson County Board of Education and Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. This shouldn’t be a fight against ideas but an ongoing collaborative effort of ideas.
Please vote for 3A/3B so that we can continue to provide the best public education for our students and community.
Pam Linquist is an Evergreen resident.