Guest Column: Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year

Posted 8/16/22

Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year! We are incredibly excited to have our students (all 64,000 of them!) back in the classroom engaged in learning and taking part in the many activities and …

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Guest Column: Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year

Posted

Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year! We are incredibly excited to have our students (all 64,000 of them!) back in the classroom engaged in learning and taking part in the many activities and milestone events that our school district has to offer across our 89 schools.

Here in the Douglas County School District, we have much to celebrate. We have one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area at 90.7%. The Class of 2022 earned nearly $116 million in scholarships and our students and parents saved nearly $3.7 million in college expenses through DCSD’s concurrent enrollment partnerships in the 2021-2022 school year.

What do we want for our students?

● Destination district: Continue to make DCSD an amazing place to work and go to school.

● College, career and service pathways: Bright futures for students and a career pipeline for our local industry.

● Excellent schools: Continue to make each DCSD school a point of pride in our community.

How do we get there?

Competitive pay for teachers and staff

● There is more competition than ever for teachers and staff. DCSD needs to be able to provide pay that is more competitive with other school districts.

Safe, efficient, quality learning environments

● Updating and repairing school buildings to continue providing safe, efficient, quality learning environments for students and staff.

New Neighborhood Schools

● Constructing new neighborhood elementary schools and creating additions to existing neighborhood middle schools to reduce crowding in existing schools and to accommodate growth.

How are schools funded?

Each school district has a “bucket” of dollars that is made up of state and local revenue. The size of the bucket for each district is fixed annually by the state legislature. The bucket is first filled with local dollars, then the state fills in the rest to the top of the bucket. Therefore, during prosperous times when there are more local dollars, the bucket gets filled with more local revenue and less state revenue — overall funding does not increase.

So how do schools increase the size of their bucket? The law allows each school district to increase funding up to 25% through a locally approved mill levy override. Such MLOs generally provide additional ongoing revenue which can be used for ongoing operational expenses such as paying salaries and providing student programming. Additionally, the law intends for all capital funding (to build new schools as well as to upgrade and maintain current schools) to come from a locally approved bond initiative.

In 2018, the amazing residents of Douglas County voted yes to pass an MLO and a bond measure. We used the additional MLO funding to add counselors to each of our schools and to close internal pay gaps and to raise starting salaries. The bond enabled us to catch up on critical maintenance in our buildings that had been put off for far too long.

DCSD’s current MLO increases our funding by 12%. However, through years of successful initiatives, nearby districts have increased their funding by closer to 25%, which has led to significant challenges for our school district when it comes to competitive pay for our amazing teachers and staff. Cherry Creek School District, for example, receives 25% additional funding through their MLO, so their average teacher salary is about $18,000 higher than in DCSD. While our teachers are incredibly dedicated and passionate, it is very difficult to ignore a significantly higher paycheck a few miles away.

So how much would a potential bond and MLO cost Douglas County taxpayers? A $60 million MLO and a $450 million bond would cost taxpayers $1 per week for every $100,000 in home value. This would allow us to increase pay (the MLO would move us from 12% to 19%), to build three new neighborhood schools and expand middle schools to accommodate growth, and to continue to invest in our existing buildings.

DCSD will need to address these ongoing funding challenges to ensure that each and every one of our students continue to have access to the best possible public education within safe and comfortable learning environments. Learn more about this and how you can help by visiting www.dcsdk12.org/funding.

We look forward to partnering with our amazing community to provide the absolute best education to our 64,000 students in the new school year!

Erin Kane is the Superintendent of the Douglas County School District.

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