Elbert County

Elizabeth educator makes pitch for teacher funding

Bissonette testifies before Senate Finance Committee at Colorado Capitol

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Continuing his commitment to increasing funding for education in rural areas, Elizabeth School District Superintendent Douglas Bissonette testified before the Colorado Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on April 11.

The bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship from state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling; Senate Minority Leader Lucía Guzmán, D-Denver; Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan; and House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, was passed by the committee with a vote of 4-1. Sen. Tim Neville, R-Jefferson County, voted against it.

Bissonette spoke in favor of bill SB 17-267, Rural Sustainability, which would ultimately allocate monies to schools, roads and hospitals in Colorado’s rural areas. If the bill passes the Senate and the House, it would supply $400 million toward improving rural education in Colorado over the next three years.

He said that one of the biggest problems facing rural education is low salaries for teachers in the rural districts.

Testifying at the nearly three-hour hearing with a prepared statement, he said: “Seventy-four percent of rural schools have average teacher salaries in the lowest 10 percent of the state.”

“They are paid 56 cents on the dollar of teachers in the top 10 percent,” he added. “They make on average 21 percent below the cost of living in their communities, contrasted with the top 10 percent who earn 28 percent above the cost of living in their districts.”

Bissonette went on to say: “There are over 80,000 students receiving their education in these 110 (rural) schools where teachers, on average, are earning 21 percent below the cost of living in their communities, and there are over 5,200 teachers teaching these 80,000 students.”

The five-member committee heard testimony from groups representing transportation, healthcare, hospitals and schools, including the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance and the Colorado Association of School Executives. University of Colorado President Bruce Benson also testified.

Three amendments to Colorado’s constitution, TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights), Gallagher, and Amendment 23 have created something of a perfect storm for challenges to funding education in rural districts.

According to the website greateducation.org, “With the passage of TABOR in 1992, a combination of budget formulas made it increasingly difficult to fund schools: TABOR’s revenue limits automatically cut mill rates in districts across Colorado at the same time TABOR limited the state’s ability to prop up school funding with state dollars.”

“The challenge is to work with those amendments while maintaining the good in them,” Bissonette said.

Having passed the Finance Committee, the bill went to the Appropriations Committee on April 13. “It was expected to go the Senate and then the House,” Bissonette said.

With less than a month remaining in the legislative session that ends May 10, things must move quickly if the bill is to pass the Senate and the House by that deadline.

“If it doesn’t, the bill dies,” Bissonette said. If that happens, the superintendent will continue with “collective and intense persistence, working with legislators to find solutions.”

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Rangerider

This bill would just be more welfare for education. The county already spends vast sums of money on public education and they always want more! The whole public educational system is nothing more than a debt enslavement program which provides endless tax increases to fund the monster. If parents ere truly responsible for their child's education then they would pay for it just like any other personal expense. Instead, they pass the cost of education to others through taxes on others to pay for it. Therefore there is never any real accountability or responsibility for education in the system. The proposed bill is just another manifestation of the welfare state and socialist tax and spend thinking. How many parents with children in the school system are willing to be personally accountable for the cost of their own child's education? Not many if any. We need to get rid of this system and institute a user only tax on the school system. Those that use it should pay for it and not those who don't! Got responsibility? Prove it by paying for your own use of the welfare educational system. Schools should be like toll roads, if you use it you pay for it as you go.

Thursday, April 20 | Report this
Chip

Oh geez more from Mr. mason!! RangeRider is a hack of a troll! Notice he has nothing good to say about anything. Look at his comments on anything. It all negative all the time. This bill is simply asking the funding equation to be fair for rural communities. It's that simple.

Thursday, April 20 | Report this
Rangerider

Chip off the old block:

You're right I don't have much of anything good to say about the forced taxation for education perpetual debt enslavement system called public school. It is inherently irresponsible and a bureaucratic mess that is not the best way by a long shot to educate children. I do have some good things to say about building the wall to control illegal aliens from violating our borders, ending the global warming-climate change propaganda agenda and some of the other things the Trump administration is trying to do. I also oppose the sanctuary state/city initiatives and policies followed by our Democrat-controlled state government. Is that what you would consider something goo to say? As far as education goes, the best way to educate your children if you really care is to home school them! The question is, how many parents really care enough to do that?

Tuesday, April 25 | Report this