Local legislators honored by schools

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Routt County's state legislators, Sen. Jack Taylor and Rep. Al White, received this year's Friends of Education award from the Steamboat Springs School District.

Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, and White, R-Winter Park, were awarded for their successful work on behalf of the school district during the 2004 legislative session, School Board President Paula Stephenson said.

Stephenson pointed to the legislators' role in upholding small school districts' say about whether charter schools are opened and in protecting the city of Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education.

"As in any elected position, the job is often thankless, and efforts are often met only with complaints," Stephenson said. "Al and Jack both deserve a huge round of thanks.

"Their dedication and devotion to making Colorado a better state to live in goes well beyond ... their support of our small school district. Yet, they still make the time to ask us about what is going on and how they can help. They are truly friends of education."

Taylor said he appreciated the recognition.

"I've been doing this for 13 years -- supporting K-12 education, not just (the Steamboat Springs School District), but all of rural Colorado, because education is so important," Taylor said.

He said his personal slogan is "Kids and water are Colorado's future, so you must protect them both."

White has served on the House Education Committee for the past five years.

"It was gratifying to me, because the district recognizes the efforts that I and Sen. Taylor put forth on the part of education and students in the Steamboat School District," White said about receiving the award.

White and Taylor's support for education in Steamboat is evidenced by their reactions to a bill introduced in the 2004 session that created the State Charter School Authority, Stephenson said. Under that proposed bill, charter school applicants could bypass a local board of education to open a charter school, Stephenson said. Before the bill was introduced, the Steamboat Springs School Board had told parents and the State Board of Education it would not accept a proposed Montessori charter school, saying it was not in the best interest of the district.

White then introduced an amendment to the bill, which passed, giving school districts with less than 3,000 students sole authority over charter schools, Stephenson said.

Later, a bill was introduced that would have made it illegal for any governmental organization to provide funding to school districts. That, officials said, was an attack on Steamboat's half-cent sales tax.

Taylor and White negotiated with other legislators to get that bill killed, Stephenson said.

Stephenson called White and Taylor "two of the staunchest supporters of rural schools and education."

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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