Fund basic ed obligations first

The attention public school funding is receiving during this legislative session is deserved and well intentioned. However, if attention is not focused on increasing the core funding of our schools, we will not be in a better financial position than we are now.

We need additional funds to fulfill our constitutional mandate – meeting the basic education needs of all of our children.

We need to fully fund special education. The shortfall for the Lakewood School District was $188,475 in 2005-06. The $60 million identified in the Appropriations Subcommittee’s proposed K-12 budget would fall $208 million short of fully funding special education.

We need to fully fund pupil transportation. The 2006 JLARC study reflects a shortfall in funding of transportation of $200 million for the biennium. The $25 million identified in the budget does not come close to fulfilling this basic obligation. In 2005-06, the shortfall for the Lakewood School District was $244,577.

A proposal to address the inequities in allocation formulas for instructional, classified and administrative staff (SB 5135) is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It should be incorporated into the budget. Senate Bill 5135 establishes a six-year timeline to eliminate these inequities. At the rate of $50 million a biennium, which was proposed in the Appropriations Subcommittee’s budget, it will take approximately 30 years to equalize these allocations for all school districts. We must resolve this issue over the next six years.

Providing improvements to our math and science programs to ensure that all students achieve our higher standards require additional resources. Decisions about how schools can best meet our student achievement goals must be made at the local level.

The state should acknowledge the need to fund basic education and use the 2007-09 operating budget to demonstrate its commitment to the more than 1 million students in our schools who are counting on us.

LARRY FRANCOIS Superintendent, Lakewood School District

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