Does the PTA Speak for You?
At the last Jefferson County School Board meeting on April 5, one of the most astonishing testimonies I heard with regard to the tax increase being debated was from Keri Lee, the President of the Jeffco PTA. She mentioned that she represented 13,000 PTA members and that the membership was fully behind the push for a tax increase to benefit schools and prevent “further cuts”. Is this accurate? I have spoken to several Jeffco Moms who do not agree.
I have been asked why the PTA is involved in political activities. I did not understand it either, so I did some homework. The PTA (as opposed to a PTO which is purely individual school centered) is a national lobbying organization based in Washington DC. They set an agenda and each subsidiary, the Colorado PTA, the district PTA down to the school level PTA follows that agenda. The National slogan “EveryChild, OneVoice” does not appear to take into account differing points of view with regard to what exactly is in the best interest of children. PTA lobbying efforts have tended to focus on school funding and the continual need for more.
For those of you who have been following my comments over the past several months, you already understand that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Using the 2004/05 school year as a baseline, Jeffco public schools have spent a cumulative 450M additional general fund dollars through the 2010/11 school year. The rate of increase is higher than inflation despite declining enrollment.
How is this possible, you might wonder? Well, in addition to state funds, the district received money from a Mill Levy which passed in 2004 – approximately $35M per year (or $245M over the last seven years). In that time period, on-going expenses (salaries and PERA contributions) have increased at rates far higher than inflation. In fact, since 2005, the district’s contribution to the state retirement plan (PERA) has grown to be $30M more per year (an increase of 65%!), and it will only go higher. The district receives Title I funds (for at risk schools), Federal ARRA dollars, Edu-Jobs dollars and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) monies as well as increased bus and athletic fees.
Perhaps it would be reasonable to ask for more money, if what the district received was well-spent and outcomes matched expectations. What Jeffco has experienced is essentially flat achievement gains. While the district average for the 10th Grade Math CSAP scores are somewhat higher than the state average, is a 42% proficiency really good enough? Jeffco Students First wants the district to AIM HIGHER and be creative when it comes to school management and cost savings. Some would have us believe that more taxes for education is a moral litmus test. Jeffco Students First wants each child to have an opportunity for the best education possible, but do not believe more money for the current system is the answer.
The next regular School Board meeting will be held this Thursday, May 3rd at JeffCo’s Education Center located at 1829 Denver West Drive, Golden 80401 Bldg. #27. The regular BOE meeting will start at 6pm. Please join us and tell the board to do better with the money they have before asking for more.