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Voices: Why I'll vote "yes" on Denver's 3A & 3B

Denver Public Schools parent Chris Wood says that with constant cuts to K-12 funding, Denver needs the 3A and 3B ballot issues to pass to ensure quality schools for the future.

Last week, my child’s DPS teacher asked her family to send in an old sock to clean dry erase boards. My initial reaction was, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t have enough money for an eraser?”

My child attends Brown International Academy in Sloan’s Lake in Northwest Denver and receives a great education under the circumstances of tight budget conditions. The sock request underscores the creativity teachers employ to find resources every day, but it is far from unusual.

Teachers regularly write grants for basic materials like paper, books, and even pencils. Visit the school website – you will see an option to donate to the school for things like literacy and math center materials because the school lacks the funding to provide these very basic learning resources. Brown is not an anomaly in Denver Public Schools. It’s not even an anomaly across the state.

State budget cuts have forced school districts across Colorado to go to voters every few years to ask for more money for schools – for basic maintenance and the kinds of programs and services that aid in student achievement. That is why Denver residents will see both a mill levy override and a bond authorization on their ballots this November.

We may not all agree on DPS policies. School funding, however, is not a policy issue. It is a fundamental necessity, and when districts are not able to pass their mill levy overrides and bond authorizations, we see cataclysmic results.

What will be funded

The funds from the mill and bond will expand tutoring programs that provide intervention for students who need additional help to stay on track for graduation; expand access to early-childhood education programs and offer full-day kindergarten to all students; restore and expand enrichment programs like arts, music and physical education; and allow the district to green schools by replacing inefficient appliances with more energy-efficient ones. Our kids are going to see better buildings and better programs with these measures.

In addition to reduced funding from the state, DPS has seen significant population growth (approximately 11,000 additional students over the last five years) and is anticipating more growth in certain areas of the city. That’s why the bond includes some new construction in the areas with recent or projected population growth. The bond proposal targets critical projects in areas where there is a real need, either for maintenance, upgrades or for more seats.

I was a part of the community process that included 28 public meetings earlier in the year to determine which projects are in dire need of funding, and I can tell you that great thought was given to the projects and programs outlined in the final proposal. The bond economically and smartly adds capacity in the places where Denver needs it most, addresses the direst building maintenance issues including roofing, heating and cooling, and brings a modest amount of technology to the schools.

It’s important to note that two oversight committees will be established, one for the mill and one for the bond. The process of allocating funding for projects will be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

The DPS mill and bond will improve teaching and learning environments by controlling class size, providing for much-needed safety upgrades and maintenance, and putting cooling solutions in every school. All DPS children will benefit, and all schools will see additional investments.

Please join me in supporting our kids by voting yes on the mill and bond, 3A and 3B, this November.

And Ms. T is still looking for socks – CLEAN socks please.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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