Lance Scranton: It’s the demographics!
I’ve been following demographics around the world and especially in our country as a pastime for many years. It wasn’t until the lack of students in our schools began negatively impacting our operating budget that I really began to pay attention. As our country ages and people have fewer and fewer children, demographics change and the importance and value of each child becomes increasingly tied to economic and societal issues.
Local demographics have been a mixed bag for our school district. The declining enrollment numbers aren’t just about parents choosing to educate their children elsewhere — but about the reality of declining numbers of children in family units. Not all, but many rural families have taken it upon themselves (for reasons that could fill another column) to produce fewer children. Anyone over 35 can see that this is a reality in our country. Family units are smaller and the parents have more time to devote to making sure their children’s needs are met. This attitude leads to both positive and negative outcomes (again, a whole other column).
But smaller schools should lead to better outcomes as we take advantage of the student decline to achieve smaller classrooms and cut out some of the surplus requirements that bigger schools, with bigger budgets, require. It would seem that a smaller school district would require fewer resources but schools seem to resist the impulse to simplify and additional staffing grows larger and larger with no end in sight. Teachers and teaching are almost an afterthought in the big business of public education and data-collection.
Sports have benefitted the most because we now play in lower classifications where we have been much more successful. We avoid bigger schools like Palisade, Rifle and Glenwood Springs and now compete against Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork and Basalt. While demographics allow us to play in a lower classification, I don’t see too many people complaining because we’re winning. It’s a good thing and not the fault of anyone in particular. Demographics make for both winners and losers.
China has recently relaxed their one-child policy because they are confronting a demographic time-bomb that will go off world-wide in about 50 years. Too many older folks and not enough younger people to account (taxes) for the resources needed. The same problem will confront us but immigration has helped ease the confounding problem of demographic easing.
Think it doesn’t matter because in 50 years you’ll be too old to worry about it? I may not be around but I hope my kids will be and the decisions we make now will have a huge impact on what their lives look like in the future. If you’re invested in your kid’s future right now — start talking about how great it is to have a nice, big family. Our future depends on it!
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