CENTER — A source close to teachers at Center Schools voiced concerns recently that education is in a downward spiral that can be felt at Center Schools and in all rural schools in Colorado, owing to funding shortages for the past several years.
This year Center Schools began the school year without key teachers, i.e., a middle/high school English Language teacher, a high school science teacher and a Restorative Justice/Alternative to Suspension coordinator. Last year the school began without high school math and science teachers, but the positions were filled in September.
English Language teachers are key to the students at Center Schools, even at the high school/middle school level, because many struggling with learning a second language, if not receiving proper assistance, will not do well in state testing and cannot progress successfully in their studies. Center is one of the poorest school districts in Colorado and outside studies conducted in the past few years have shown that Spanish-speaking students have benefited greatly from its ELL program.
In 2015, former Superintendent George Welsh and the Academic Recovery Center took heat over the procedures for dealing with suspended students at the school and some fear there will be a lack of supervision unless the coordinator position is filled soon. James Sanchez, a school board member who helped bring a Denver Channel 7 News to the school to do a series on the practices, is circulating a petition to run again for the Center School board.
Sanchez reportedly opposes the new four-day school week, and along with others maintains that parents did not have sufficient opportunity to weigh in on the decision made by the school board to go to the four-day week. Superintendent Chris Vance noted that while Sanchez may have issues with the decision to go to a four-day week, he did not attend the main meeting held on the change to register his concerns.
Articles advising parents of the four-day week discussion meetings were printed in the Center Post-Dispatch and notices were sent home to parents about the meeting, Vance said, yet few attended the meetings. A survey also was made available to parents to reflect their views on the change from five days to four.
Many working parents have no options for daycare on Fridays and without a daycare center in the town this is not likely to be resolved any time soon. And yet the four-day school week was necessary from a practical standpoint, Vance and others observed.
At the end of the day, Vance pointed out, the school had little choice. Of all the Valley schools, only Alamosa still retains the five-day school week. “The four-day week is an incentive for hiring,” he explained. “Teachers have to commute,” and schools are not receiving enough funding to attract quality teachers with pay packages.
One teacher even noted that schools are facing a severe teaching shortage that will eventually adversely impact education across the state. Colleges are hardly graduating any teachers, s/he said, and there will be no replacements for those who are leaving the profession or retiring.
There is still no Secure Rural Schools legislation passed in Washington to fund Colorado rural schools and no legislation to increase state funding for schools is pending either. To make matters worse, the interaction of TABOR with something known as the Gallagher Amendment will reduce property taxes over the next few years, and this will make fewer funds available for education. About sixty cents of every dollar paid in property taxes funds public schools.
Fewer tax dollars also forces the state to implement more budget cuts and this means fewer dollars for education. No remedy for the situation seems to be on the horizon.