By Karen Auge The Denver Post
Public education is good for students, good for the state and good for the economy, so funding it adequately should be a priority. That was the message delivered by hundreds who attended a rally this morning on the state Capitol steps.
"We know the best investment we can make is in our public schools," said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Jefferson County Education Association. "We are here to tell our legislators and the public that it's time to take the lead and fund the quality education our students deserve."
Organizers, including the Colorado Education Association, the state's biggest teacher's union, the Colorado Parent Teacher Association, Together Colorado (formerly Metro Organizations for People) and Padres y Jovenes Unidos, had promised 1,000 people would turn out, and the crowd appeared at least that big.
One after another, speakers, who included students and state Rep. Andy Kerr, a Jefferson County Democrat, emphasized the nearly $1 billion cut from education during the current recession, and the dire consequences of those cuts. There was little talk of potential solutions to the revenue shortfall that has plagued schools for four years.
Still, there was plenty of bad news to talk about.
"One district announced it is cutting 60 positions. That same district has cut 150 positions over the past four years," Hereford Percy, a former Jefferson County school board member told the crowd.
He was referring to Adams 12 Five Star Schools, which will eliminate 60 jobs because it must chop $12 million from its budget for the coming school year.
Percy then listed off more pain and loss among the state's schools: some districts are considering four-day school weeks, others have already taken that "drastic step," he said. Some districts have axed extra-curricular activities, some have ended foreign-language programs. And even as lawmakers debate holding back third-graders who aren't proficient in reading, many districts have been forced to cut literacy specialists "who provide support to our struggling students," Percy said.
Those on the Capitol steps listening and waving signs -one read "Great Quarterbacks Cost Money and So Does Quality Education" — included many from Jefferson County, where the first of two furlough days this school year meant teachers and students weren't in class today.
Joey Visconti, for example, normally spends weekday mornings in Shonia Peachey's second-grade class at Devinny Elementary School in Lakewood, where his favorite subject, he said, is science.
But today, Joey stood alongside his little brother Nicholas and their mom Amy Visconti, co-president of Devinny's PTA, waving a sign his parents helped him make, that read "I Deserve Better."
They were there, Joey said, "Because we don't have enough money for Colorado schools."
As Joey waved his sign, Mandi Marcantonio, a senior at Arvada West High School and an aspiring teacher, took the microphone and announced, "I should be in school today."
She pointed out that while she and 85,000 other Jeffco students have a day off, students around the world are gaining a competitive leg up because they are in school.
When she is in school, Mandi said, conditions are far from optimum. "One of my classes has 37 kids in it. It's hard to learn as well as to teach in such a crowded environment."
By Karen Auge The Denver Post