A small folding table bearing a big sign – “Support Public Education in Colorado” – will appear at popular events the next two weeks as local volunteers collect signatures for a school funding petition ballot initiative.
Groups of citizens across Colorado, including Chaffee County, are taking the crisis of public school funding into their own hands – or pens, that is. These groups across Colorado aim to get enough petition signatures to place an initiative called “Great Schools Thriving Communities” on the November ballot. The additional school funding would provide support to underfunded public schools at both the elementary and high school levels for needs such as increased teacher salaries and classroom supplies and instructional materials.
“We’ve collected about 400 signatures, so far. The signatures from 2 percent of registered voters are needed from each Colorado Senate District to get the referendum on the ballot in November,” said Irv Broudy, a volunteer working on the petition effort. “That means 1,500 to 2,000 signatures from our Senate District 5, who encompass many areas in addition to Chaffee County where we are working.”
Broudy said a local group of about 14 volunteers, including Gif Kreibel, Harry Brull, Linda Erickson, Peter Shannon, Anne Marie Holen, Ellen Bauder, Si Gonzales and Leslie Matthews, has collected about 400 signatures already at events such as the Salida Museum open house, the Scout Hut grand opening and the Engaging in Aging event at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.
More volunteers and expanded public awareness is needed to reach the goal of 2,000 local signatures, Broudy said, and the group plans to collect signatures at FIBArk, Salida Art Walk and Shakespeare in the Park.
“Almost all of the volunteers working on this are former teachers, and all believe passionately in the value of education and the need to give more resources to our schools,” said Broudy. He referred to another resolution that was circulated in Salida and passed by the Salida School Board, and a matching resolution passed by the Buena Vista School Board, as representative of how funds would be used in Chaffee County. “More than 25 statewide education associations have also endorsed this initiative.”
Broudy said about 95 percent of people who signed the petition did so enthusiastically. “We’ve gotten comments from teachers visiting here from other areas, like Denver and Golden, saying they’d love to come live and teach in Salida, but they can’t afford to since the salaries here are 30 percent less than their current salary.
“I met an early-childhood teacher last year who was being forced to move from Salida. She gave up a
job she loved because she couldn’t afford the rent increase she was facing. A recent survey shows that more than 90 percent of teachers in rural communities like ours in Colorado can’t afford current housing costs, and they continue to rise.”
Broudy pointed out that should the amendment be added to the ballot and pass, new funding would not necessarily go to teachers’ salaries.
“One of the big points we make when we talk to people is to explain that individual school districts will have the freedom to decide how to spend the money on the ways they think they can best improve education for their kids. Locally, we’ll decide if it’s more and better instructional materials, more and/or better-paid teachers, moving to full-day kindergarten, funding for programs for special-needs kids or for gifted and talented education. It’s not an either-or, it’s a ‘what do our kids need here in Chaffee County to get the best start possible.’”
To see the Great School website, which lists funding needs for Colorado, click http://www.greatschoolsthrivingcommunities.org/about .
The right of citizens to petition our government for public needs or grievances is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Petition signatures must be collected by June 27. Chaffee County residents can volunteer to collect signatures by emailing Broudy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salida Schedule for “Great Schools” Petition:
Saturday, June 16: FIBArk, 9:30-11 a.m., Table on F Street
Sunday, June 17: FIBArk Awards Ceremony, Table at Salida Boat Ramp, 3-4 p.m.
Thursday-Sunday, June 21- 24: Art Walk, locations in downtown Salida.
Saturday and Sunday, June 23-24: Shakespeare in the Park, 5-6 p.m., Riverside Park.