Dramatic Classroom Changes Yields Question, Who Cares?

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By Sue Catterall; Field Organizer, Great Education Colorado
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Though some Colorado students have already put summer behind them and are back in classrooms, most will return from the summer break in just a few short weeks. Many will do what they’ve always done on the first day of school: they’ll don backpacks brimming with new school supplies, gather at the school entrance eager to rekindle friendships, and well yes, learn what’s in store for them during the coming year. College students will settle into their new digs, get acquainted with roommates, and freshmen will immediately begin working on the Freshman 15.

So far so good.

But what might students find as they walk through those doors on the first day of school?

Some students will discover larger class sizes, fewer art and music classes, reduced (or eliminated) world language options, no more field trips, and some (mostly in rural communities) will attend school four days each week instead of five. Some will walk farther to bus stops or pay fees to ride the school bus. Many will return to the same textbooks used during the Clinton administration or will share textbooks with one or more students. Some will take fewer classes because graduation requirements have been lowered. And college students will anguish over escalating tuition and fees as they slip further and further into debt.

Increases in insurance, utilities, fuel costs, and retirement programs are making it difficult for school districts and higher education institutions to keep up. Listen as Tracie Rainey of the Colorado School Finance Project discusses the impact the cuts are having in classrooms across the state in this recent Colorado Public Radio interview.

So, who cares?

  • Who cares that cuts are continuing for the fourth or fifth year in a row for some districts?
  • Who cares that school districts are drawing down reserves?
  • Who cares that graduation requirements are being reduced in districts across the state?
  • Who cares that furlough days have become the norm?
  • Who cares that class sizes continue to increase and that support staff is dwindling?
  • Who cares that the cost of college is becoming out of reach for middle class families?

 We care!

  • Parents care because we want our children to have access to quality teachers, music, art and world language programs, college and career tech pathways, clean and safe buildings, access to the world through current technology, dedicated librarians, manageable fee structures, and reasonable class sizes. We want our children to have a fair chance at competing for jobs when they leave their cozy bedrooms and home cooked meals and head out into the world.
  • Students care because it’s their future and they are already impacted by multiple years of budget cuts. They’re also concerned for their younger siblings who may not have the same advantages they had in their earlier years.
  • Teachers care because they are passionate about helping children to succeed and they worry about their ability to carry out their obligations without sufficient resources.
  • Grandparents care because they want their grandchildren to have the same opportunities that their own children had.
  • Business leaders care because they realize the economic vitality of their community is highly dependent on access to high quality schools.
  • Citizens care because their property values are tied to the success of our public schools.  

Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans care but there hasn't been an easy way for them to speak together, until now...

What are WE doing about it?

The 2013: Year of the Student Project, a growing and diverse coalition of organizations, is coming together to give citizens from across Colorado an opportunity to take meaningful collective action toward solving the funding problem. Specifically, we are asking state leaders use the 2013 legislative session to make 2013 the Year of the Student. Parents, students, teachers, grandparents, business leaders, and Coloradans are signing a statewide Call to Action to respectfully demand:

“That the General Assembly make 2013 The Year of the Student, using the legislative session to create and find funding for a P-20 education finance system that matches reforms, mandates and accountability measures with the resources necessary to ensure that every student is successful.”

What can YOU do about it?

You can…

  • Invite Great Ed to speak about the Year of the Student at your upcoming Rotary, HOA, retirement center, or community-based organization.
  • Ask your school board to sign a resolution in support of the Year of the Student. Invite board members to sign the Call to Action as a citizen and community leader. Contact us to request a draft copy of a school board resolution to take to your next Board meeting.
  • Attend Town Halls, Community Forums, and School Board meetings; ask leaders to support of the Year of the Student.
  • Talk to your friends and neighbors. Tell them how the cuts are impacting your children or grandchildren. Get the word through your email, Facebook, Twitter, and one-on-one connections.

State leaders will do right by Colorado's students when tens of thousands of us demand it.