Two similar issues on November’s ballot sound like laudable efforts but approach education in the wrong way. Amendment 39, the “65-percent solution,” is part of a nationwide movement that four states — Louisiana, Kansas and Texas and Georgia — have adopted in some manner.
Referendum J is the Colorado Legislature’s version that purports to fix some of the problems with Amendment 39.
Amendment 39 requires that 65 percent of school funds go toward “classroom instruction.”
Those expenses include:
Teachers, classroom aides and tutors;
Libraries and librarians;
Books and other instructional materials;
Classroom computers; and
Other items, such as field trips, athletics, arts and music.
Referendum J directs 65 percent go to items that “directly affect student achievement.”
It would allow expenses to include the above items and others not allowed under the amendment. Those expenses include:
Support staff such as guidance counselors, bus drivers and food service workers;
Support services, such as college placement, student health, food services and transportation; and
The main message behind the 65- percent spending requirement is that classroom instruction is key to student performance and that as supporter House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, said, “Our teachers are some of the lowest-paid professionals in the country.”
A good, well-rounded education relies heavily on student contact in the classroom. But much more makes for a good education, and research rarely concludes that more money alone in classrooms produces better results.
Counselors are key for some students. Principals provide an authority figure for students and guide the ships that are our schools. Lunch programs provide nourishment for young minds.
Only six Colorado districts meet the 65 percent requirements outlined in Amendment 39. Three showed above average performance and three below average.
In Colorado, 19 districts that spent less than 65 percent in classrooms showed student proficiency of more than 90 percent, according to numbers pulled by the Bell Policy Center.
That shows more money does not equal success.
Every district faces different circumstances. That’s why local schools traditionally have been managed locally by elected school boards.
Yet more and more education is about battling one-size-fits-all, unfunded mandates from federal and state governments.
Colorado schools already deal with funding formulas, the Colorado Student Achievement Program, the national No Child Left Behind act and other things meant to do well for our children but that take time and focus away from them. After all, there are always compliance costs that go unfunded.
Education funding, particularly in Colorado, needs attention.
Colorado ranks among the bottom of states in classroom funding, but it also is among the lowest when it comes to overall education funding. Of those funds, 57.3 cents per dollar gets into the classroom.
Some argue the percentage is out of whack. But the numbers certainly correlate.
Mandating a larger portion of a small pie with another layer of government isn’t the solution.