Dave Ulrich: Future looking brighter for Moffat County School District
The future for Moffat County School District students continues to brighten. I believe our district earning the accredited rating for the first time since 2009 is only the beginning of our efforts to live the district’s mission to educate and inspire students to thrive in an environment of change! The district is currently in the process of putting our budget together for next school year. While the state legislature is looking to increase funding for public education for 2018-19, it is important to know that the state formula for per-pupil revenue will continue to be underfunded by more than $600 million. I want you to be aware of two statewide efforts to address the continued shortfall of funds for Colorado schools. First, however, I would like you to be aware of the current funding challenges for MCSD.
While everyone in MCSD is committed to providing the best education possible, we continue to face significant financial shortfalls. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per-pupil funding. According to the Colorado Department of Education state 2017-18 funding report, Moffat County ranks in the bottom 15 school districts (out of 178) for per-pupil funding. The shortfall in the state funding formula, known as the Budget Stabilization Factor, equates to nearly $1.5 million our district will not receive to serve students.
Colorado also has a severe shortage of teachers, resulting from a lack of support and training tools, as well as inadequate pay. Though teachers are continually being asked to do more, the average Colorado teacher’s salary is $7,000 below the national average. This makes it difficult to recruit talented teachers, which hurts our competitiveness and our ability to provide students with a quality education. Statewide, approximately 3,000 openings need to be filled for the coming school year, alone. As a smaller, rural district in Colorado, the effects of the teacher shortage are felt even more directly. Multiple positions remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.
Two statewide efforts have begun in response to these challenges. First, superintendents across the state have worked diligently through the past 18 months in developing a new school finance formula to address problems with the current formula. Since passage of the existing Public School Finance Act of 1994, expectations of Colorado’s public schools have increased substantially, both in terms of expected outcomes of students and levels of public accountability for schools and school districts. During this same period, the programming and services Colorado’s schools must provide to meet the increasing needs and challenges of students have also expanded exponentially. I have been present for many of the informational meetings and count myself among the 171 Colorado superintendents who support this work. State Rep. Dave Young is spearheading House Bill 18-1232 for legislation. It is important to note that the formula would not be enacted unless adequate funds were identified.
The work done by the superintendents to build a new school finance formula is complementary to the second statewide effort. Great Education Colorado, has been working since the 2016 elections to place a school funding measure on the ballot in 2018. If successful, Initiative 93 would build on the successes of Colorado’s public schools by expanding educational opportunities for our students to prepare them for success in college, career and life. To provide sustainable support for schools for years to come, it would stabilize the local share of education funding by first lowering property tax rates, then freezing the rates.
In tandem, these two efforts would result in a significant increase in funding for MCSD students and staff. If enacted, MCSD would be able to serve students at an even higher level. I encourage community members to monitor the progress on HB-18-1232 and Initiative 93 and the potential impact on our students.
Dave Ulrich is superintendent of the Moffat County School District.
On a cool autumn afternoon in 1914 Hayden, a human being was seen occupying space previously reserved for only birds, clouds and celestial bodies. It was a monumental occasion — one that shook the very fiber of reality for the people of Northwest Colorado.