East Grand Superintendent: Kids matter, too | SkyHiNews.com

East Grand Superintendent: Kids matter, too

Frank Reeves
Superintendent, East Grand Schools

I feel very fortunate to call myself the superintendent of East Grand School District No. 2. Over the past two years we have been recognized as a District of Distinction, a high school that produces students that need little remediation in college courses, a middle school that is ranked in the top 1 percent of middle schools in the state. We have won numerous state awards as well as being recognized in an A+ Colorado Report as a district that has success with all students, including disadvantaged students.

While everyone is committed to providing the best education possible, we are facing significant financial challenges.

Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending, which has negatively affected critical student services like special education and mental health. In some cases, these programs have disappeared altogether, and our students deserve better.

In Colorado, we are severely underfunding special education services.

Only Arizona and Oklahoma spend less for students with special needs. State and federal funds for students with disabilities aren’t keeping up with increased special education costs, leading school districts to put increasing amounts of their general fund towards those services. We want to provide the best special education services we can, because we know our children deserve it. Currently our per pupil SPED costs make up nearly twice the amount of our local budget as our per pupil general education students. On a state level and federal level, Colorado funds 21 percent of SPED costs and the federal reimbursement 17 percent. That leaves 62 percent of SPED costs for local districts to pay. Our students deserve better.

In light of recent events, mental health funding has been garnering plenty of attention.

More than 15 percent of Colorado kids have some form of mental health issue, and alarmingly one out of five kids in Colorado has seriously considered suicide. At a time when enrollment is increasing, budget pressures have decimated the ranks of school counselors. This has caused the counselor-to-student ratio to widen leaving fewer resources for our kids at all levels of schooling. Our students deserve better.

And it’s not just these services that are suffering.

Colorado has a severe shortage of teachers resulting from a lack of support and training tools, as well as inadequate pay. Although teachers are continually being asked to do more, the average Colorado teacher’s salary is $7,000 below the national average. In East Grand, our average teacher salary is over $10,000 less than our cost of living. This makes it difficult to recruit talented teachers, which hurts our competitiveness and our ability to provide students with a quality education. We recently asked a teacher from Nebraska to take a $11,000 pay cut to come and teach at East Grand. In Colorado, about 3,000 to 3,500 openings need to be filled for the coming school year alone. Our students deserve better.

Colorado’s growth should benefit all families and communities, and all students deserve the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Fortunately, as the state expects a budget surplus, we can do better. Lawmakers will soon be debating what to do with these resources.

That’s why we have launched the Kids Matter Too movement to connect Colorado students, parents, and teachers with lawmakers. Lawmakers need to hear from voters about the importance of funding our schools and that these are issues Colorado families care about.

There are many other programs and needs that are inadequately funded in our public schools. It is time to tell our legislators to invest in the future of the state. That future is our students and they deserve better. Kids matter, too.

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