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April 22, 2010 - Public Roundtable: Summit County K-12 Education

Private foundation rollout highlights conversation on PK12 education funding

With the Summit School District facing an estimated $800,000 deficit in a $30 million 2010-11 operating budget, community leaders and educators have been wrestling with difficult decisions about where reductions to programs and staff would represent the least impact on educational quality for the 3,000 students under their care.

To encourage creative approaches to PK-12 education funding, Our Future Summit hosted an April 22 roundtable that drew upon the counsel of school board members Margaret Carlson and Brad Piehl, local teachers’ union representative Mark Clark, assistant school superintendent Karen Strakbein as well as a number of concerned parents and citizens.

The Colorado School Finance Act requires an equitable distribution of state and local tax revenue regardless of district location. Budget cuts at the state level have meant a reduction in per pupil public investment from $7,541 to $7,100. Thanks to sound financial planning, our district has lowered an anticipated $1.4 million shortfall by one third.

The school board has considered and tabled both elementary school consolidation and a four day school week as cost cutting measures. While most elementary schools in the county lack the 300 pupil enrollment needed for optimum efficiency, the board recognizes the important contribution of neighborhood facilities to a sense of community and place. Likewise, a four day academic scenario would not realize enough efficiency to warrant the disruption to school family schedules.

An increased role for volunteers in providing tutoring, mentoring and administrative services was one suggestion participants felt the community could embrace with enthusiasm.

When the subject shifted to ways to generate additional revenue, the recent formation of a grassroots private investment movement, the Summit Education Foundation (SEF), stimulated a lively discussion.

Initiated by a group of concerned Breckenridge parents, the organization, which is modeled after several other education foundations in Colorado, provides a means to inject private funds into public education. For example, the Aspen Educational Foundation (www.aspenaef.org) , which was established in 1991, has provided a total of $4.6 million to fund teacher positions, educational programs, professional development, classroom grants, student awards and teacher recognition. SEF spokesman Chris Renner says the organizing committee plans a series of neighborhood coffee and dessert receptions to seek public input in advance of a public launch scheduled for May 20.

Those interested in learning more about the foundation may contact Renner at 970-453-0708 orchris@sefcolorado.org


























Our Future Summit is a program of The Greenlands Reserve

 Howard Hallman, President