Every student deserves access to a great public education. Today less than half of Jeffco’s 3rd graders read at grade level. Based on that, two of my four children might complete 3rd grade below proficiency levels. That is not acceptable. While Jeffco’s performance is above state averages, our children will compete with students from around the country and the world. We must do better. It is important to make sure every Jeffco 3rd grader will become a proficient reader. I commit to setting specific measureable goals for improving student achievement.
Keeping Schools Open
When schools close the entire neighborhood is impacted. Families need to feel comfortable that they can send their children to their neighborhood school without fear of potential unexpected closure. I spent many hours volunteering at Pleasant View, which was closed at the end of last year, despite the community having very little notice. I know firsthand the impact on the families who had to scramble to determine which other school would best meet the needs of their children. I experienced the tears and anxiety this caused students and especially the families with special needs students. If Jeffco needs to close schools we need a transparent process which engages community members and doesn’t surprise neighborhoods. Families deserve better and I commit to protecting our small neighborhood schools.
Moving 6th Graders to Middle School is Too Expensive
The estimated cost of adding enough classroom seats to move all 6th graders to middle schools is $50 million. Jeffco is experiencing declining enrollment and already has nearly 10,000 empty classroom seats. Spending $50 million to build unneeded additional classroom seats seems fiscally irresponsible, especially when student achievement is not expected to improve. Investing $50 million in attracting and retaining great staff or putting those dollars in classrooms would be my priority.
In addition if 6th graders are moved out of elementary schools there will be about 25 elementary schools with under 300 students. The current board has said schools with less than 300 students are inefficient to operate and should be added to the potential closure list. I can’t support spending $50 million to add seats in middle schools while putting elementary schools at risk of being closed. Our communities deserve the opportunity to provide input before moving forward with moving all 6th graders to middle school.
Jeffco spends close to one billion dollars each year educating our students but only half are meeting grade level expectations. We spend over $130,000 providing each student a K -12 education but half don’t graduate or need to take a remedial classes before being ready for college level work. We need to be able to account for program level spending so that we know the effectiveness of spending. We need to reevaluate spending to make sure we have a lean administration and we are focusing our spending in classrooms.
Like my mother, who chose to send me to a neighborhood school close to her work, over 30% of Jeffco families choose a public education school other than their neighborhood school. I support families being able to send their students to the public school they believe will best meet the needs of their students. All students do not have the same learning needs. We are lucky in Jeffco to have Montessori, Waldorf, Core Knowledge, Classical, Arts Integration and STEM curriculums offered in schools across the district. We have great neighborhood schools, strong option schools and a variety of public charter schools. We need to make sure all Jeffco schools offer high quality education choices, so that all students have great public school options. We need to equitably fund students no matter which public school they attend.