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Superintendent Spotlight: Our schools require community investment

Superintendent Spotlight #D38Elevates

Over the past year, we’ve had many successes and faced many challenges in D38. Our top challenge has been staying competitive in recruiting and retaining the best teachers and staff with the ultimate goal of serving our students with a quality education. We are not alone in this struggle, as Colorado currently ranks last in the nation in providing teachers a competitive wage (see greateducation.org/statistics-faqs/statistics).

School districts are funded by local taxpayers and the State of Colorado according to the state’s K-12 funding formula. Due to intricacies in this formula, D38 receives far fewer per pupil dollars than neighboring districts. This means other districts have increased teacher and support staff pay at a higher rate.

As a result, teacher and staff compensation in D38 is, on average, 10% less compared to our peer districts. As we invest 80% of our dollars into staff compensation, with 90% of those dollars being dedicated to non-administrators, there is little flexibility to do much else with existing funds. While we continue to work to grow our program funding through innovative solutions, securing grant dollars, and petitioning the state for change, we cannot presently rely on the state alone to fix this challenge.

To compound this issue, we have experienced a high rate of turnover in the past few years, around 20% of our district’s staff in both 2021 and 2022. This churn has the potential to impact the quality of our schools, and it’s something we must address.

If our goal is to attract and retain the best educators to prepare our students to become the next leaders of our nation, we must partner together with our community to make this a reality.

Our fundamental mission is to provide a world-class education that effectively prepares every student for future success. Our teachers do an amazing job, yet it is difficult to be the best you can be when you are not earning a competitive living wage.

To best serve our students, we need to do more to provide a stable learning and working environment bolstered by positive employee morale. Replacing so many employees each year is not accomplishing that goal, and we must come together to address this issue.

We believe one potential solution to this conundrum is a reasonable local property tax increase which would empower the D38 community to control our own fate. Our research shows that to close the gap, we need to identify an ongoing $5.4 million in funding, and that could be accomplished by a modest increase in district property taxes, equating to about $50 per $100,000 in assessed home value per year, just over $4 per month.

In the coming weeks, we will be seeking to further explore this potential solution with our community in a series of engagement initiatives. We encourage you to read more at www.lewispalmer.org/CompetitiveD38, and help us invest in the educators who serve our students so faithfully. I look forward to engaging with you and our community on this important topic.

This article first appeared in the Gazette’s Tribune Edition in an ongoing partnership with the news outlet.

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