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Tuesday Churn: DPS may go to voters

What’s churning:

Another large metro-area school district is weighing whether to ask voters for more money in November.

Monday, members of a citizens group studying the need for additional dollars in Denver Public Schools urged board members to consider a $457 million bond issue to build schools and repair aging buildings plus a $49 million annual increase in operating dollars, partly to boost art and music in grades 6-12 and increase preschool seats.

DPS board members aren’t expected to vote on placing those tax increases on the ballot until later this summer. According to DPS calculations, approval of the recommended ballot initiatives would cost another $12 per month – or $143 a year – for the owner of a “typical” Denver home valued at $225,000.

School boards for Jefferson County Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District already have approved ballot measures for their voters to consider this fall. Presidential-year elections tend to produce more crowded ballots since they typically produce higher numbers of voters willing to approve tax increases, according to past research by the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Cherry Creek is seeking voter approval for a $125 million bond issue and a $25 million increase in operating expenses. Jefferson County is asking for a $99 million bond issue and a $39 million increase in operating expenses. Several other districts are mulling ballot plans.

DPS last went to voters in 2008, when they responded by approving what was then the largest school district bond issue ever sought in Colorado – $454 million. The big number didn’t deter Denver voters, who approved the request by a 2-1 ratio.

The $457 million bond issue recommended Monday calls for five new schools, most in the city’s growing Far Northeast, plus renovations and expansions at existing buildings such as the renovation of the former Byers Middle School.

DPS officials, in a press release issued Monday evening, say state funding has dropped $800 per student since 2009-10, from $7,672 per student that year to $6,872 in 2012-13. Meanwhile, the district’s enrollment by more than 8,400 students in four years and is projected to grow another 5,000 to 6,000 students by 2016.

“Our work to prioritize these investments has been difficult, yet we have collectively developed a bond and mill-levy override package that will provide desperately needed resources to support every DPS student,” said Terrance Carroll, the former Speaker of the state House of Representatives who served as a committee co-chair.

See the DPS press release containing a link to the 35-slide presentation to board members, which includes details about the proposed ballot questions and lists committee members. DPS also has a website listing information about the 2012 community process and the 2008 bond program.

What’s on tap:

The Boulder Valley board today has a 4:30 p.m. special executive session scheduled to discuss personnel matters. The meeting’s at district offices at 6500 Arapahoe in Boulder.

The Douglas County board meets at 5 p.m. today at 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. The agenda lists a resolution in support of permanent open contract negotiations with the district teachers’ union but the resolution itself was not available late Monday.

The budget is on the agenda for the 6 p.m. Aurora board meeting at the Professional Learning and 
Conference Center,
 15771 E. 1st Ave. Agenda.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Turnaround in NYC: More than 3,500 staffers in New York City’s 24 “turnaround” schools received pink slips Monday, their official notification that they’re not assured of their positions next year. Gothamschools.org has the story.

Teaching online: In case you missed it, the non-profit Hechinger Report and Time magazine collaborated on a June 13 story about the challenges facing online educators, focusing on a teacher who works for the 21st Century Learning Academy in Jefferson County and who previously worked for the Colorado Online Virtual Academy.

The EdNews’ Churn is a roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education, published during the summer as news warrants. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

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