Our View: Vote 'no' on Amendment 39, Ref. J

At issue: Amendment 39 and Referendum J


Amendment 39 and Referendum J on the Nov. 7 ballot would require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operational budgets on classroom instruction.

The two measures are different in that Amendment 39 is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that can only be changed by statewide vote, while Referendum J would be added to the Colorado Revised Statutes and could be amended by the Legislature. They also differ in their definitions of "classroom instruction."

No matter - both should be defeated.

Amendment 39 narrowly defines classroom instruction as teachers, aides, books, computers, field trips athletics, arts and music. Items that are not included in classroom instruction are principals, bus drivers, food service workers, guidance counselors, school nurses, building maintenance workers or central administration functions.

Referendum J would add principals, support staff and support services provided at the school level to the definition. The referendum also would require school districts to submit uniform annual budgets to the state.

Proponents argue that Amendment 39 would increase classroom spending without increasing taxes and establish a minimum standard for school district spending that every taxpayer deserves.

We disagree. Amendment 39 strips communities of the power to determine how best to spend their tax dollars and educate their children. The Steamboat Springs School District already spends more than 65 percent of its operational budget on classroom instruction. Still, we believe that our School Board should have the flexibility to respond to Steamboat's educational needs as it sees fit.

Referendum J's definition of classroom instruction is so broad that every school district in the state likely already meets its requirements. Therefore, the only new requirement is the submission of a budget to the state. This seems to be an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, because every school district already is subject to annual outside audits.

Amendment 39 and Referendum J attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all spending approach to school districts with different needs, challenges and populations. They would remove local control - and by extension, local accountability - for spending decisions.

Vote "no" on Amendment 39, and vote "no" on Referendum J.


Scott Stanford 10 years, 6 months ago


"Our View" represents the collective viewpoint of the Steamboat Pilot & Today Editorial Board. The Editorial Board includes: Suzanne Schlicht, regional manager; Bryna Larsen, publisher; Tom Ross, reporter and columnist; Brent Boyer, city editor; Kristi Brown, community representative; Wade Gebhardt, community representative; and me, the editor.

The Editorial Board members' names appear in print on the page with the editorials. Perhaps we should include them online as well.

If you have questions about the Editorial Board or would be interested in serving, please contact me.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221 sstanford@steamboatpilot.com


Magpie 10 years, 6 months ago

Sbvor - You will never get vouchers or any other sort of competition with "local control."

The state and federal govenments have done more for charter and voucher and other "alternative" and competitive public schooling than local school boards have done. The local schooll board tend to want complete control and believe that they know what is best for all the children. Our local school board/district certianly feels that way.


gwendolyn 10 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for your response to my query. yes, putting your names online would be helpful.

As for this measure, I disagree with your opinion. Why? Because 75% is the "norm" for nonprofits to put toward program services and 65% is hardly a strong benchmark at all for schools to do the same. If 65% is protested by admin staff, I would have to ask why and what else is more important than the primary focus: instructing our children.

The bulk of the remaining 35% goes to admin -- principal, v. principal, counselors who don't teach, etc. Salaries for bus drivers, maintenance workers, etc., is truly minimal compared to that of the principal & vice principal.

If more than 35% is desired for potential future emergency needs or to "adjust" remuneration to non-instructional staff, then something is seriously wrong with the way salaries are reviewed and distributed.

I don't think asking any school district to keep its priorities focused on its customers (the students) is too much to ask and 65% doesn't even meet the "norm" of what we demand of most non-profit entities. The sad part of this measure is that it was even necessary to have it on the ballot...clearly, there are school districts who need this measure to force them into "doing the right thing" for the students.

Instead of taking on such a defensive posture with this statewide measure because "Steamboat...already spends more than 65 percent...", how about looking at the bigger picture of WHY these ballot measure came about and thinking beyond the little box of this community and how protective we are of our students and allow the measure to move forward statewide so youth throughout the state could be assured of the same?


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