Big sigh of relief. Our community survived the early release schedule for our schools. No kids melted, although a few school administrators look a little scorched.
But what an uproar! I’ve been studying the hailstorm of reactions in print and on the web. You’d think we were talking about fluoride in the water, or government-ordered vaccinations. You know, stuff that ought to preoccupy every waking moment.
But before I say another snarky word, a serious hats off to Superintendent Sandra Smyser for the guts to take on Mother Nature. Who else has the impossible duty of rolling the dice every winter to determine snow days, the outcome guaranteed to cleave the city into fiefdoms of the pros, the cons and the I-won’t-like-you-no-matter-what-you-dos? Now the crapshoot extends to hot weather. And sure enough, with the early release program underway, the capricious she-devil (M. Nature) thumbed her nose by springing a sudden cool snap on us.
I welcome the survey now being distributed so we can extinguish the flame-o-grams engulfing cyberspace and instead channel opinion into something usable and statistically significant.
The survey asks respondents to rank five alternatives for handling hot school days: return to the old schedule, start school in September, keep going with early-release days, announce heat-related closures a couple of days in advance, or outfit each school with air-conditioning.
The last option, to install air conditioning, has me scratching my head, at least when I’m not laughing or crying about it. Why? Because the voters of Colorado could have focused on the big picture, taken the long view and avoided this entire situation. Instead, we’ve been rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but that’s a tired metaphor. How about fiddling while Rome is burning, or fiddling around with A.C. while our entire public education system is going up in flames?
So I’d like to propose a twist on that fifth option. Instead of voting to buy cooling units, how about a write-in vote: to stop systematically destroying our schools and hamstringing teachers by stripping their funding election after election?
Thirty years ago, Colorado K-12 per-pupil funding outpaced the national average, but we’ve fallen behind in the race ever since. Today, we’re among the 10 lowest states in per-pupil spending. New York spends over $19,000 annually. Colorado? Less than half that. We are number 40 out of 50 states in the ratio of students to teachers, and 44th in teacher salaries.
We created this mess and now we’re struggling with it.
But in spite of voter-backed budget amputations, Colorado educators still run a mean race, ranking in the top 20 percent nationally in education quality.
Where I spend most of my working hours, in corporate America, an organization that excels in spite of slashed resources is considered enterprising and innovative. Such organizations receive greater investment. That’s smart business. But Colorado voters have been punishing success, particularly since TABOR, The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, became law in 1992.
So go ahead, fill out the survey. Express your viewpoint. But remember, the long-term answer isn’t one of your five choices.
Pay for education, invest in kids, and fund the future.
This column is dedicated to George Slight, a deservedly beloved man who honored me each time he disagreed with one of my columns, which was often. Rest in peace.