Laurel Street Preschool student Baylee Walker, 4, colors Friday afternoon. Local education leaders are worried that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget cuts will have a direct impact on early childhood programs.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Laurel Street Preschool student Baylee Walker, 4, colors Friday afternoon. Local education leaders are worried that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget cuts will have a direct impact on early childhood programs.

State education budget cuts to go beyond K-12

Proposed reductions could affect other educational programs

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— Colorado Gov. John Hicken­looper’s proposed budget cuts wouldn’t affect only K-12 education in Routt County. Other educational programs expect to take a hit in their state funding.

“We had done quite a bit of trimming,” Northwest Colo­ra­do Board of Cooperative Edu­cational Services Executive Di­­rec­tor Jane Toothaker said last week about the current year. “Certainly, we’ll need to reduce some more for next year. Some of that depends on what our districts want and require from us. But certainly, we’ll work with our districts and cut if we need to cut.

“I don’t think there’s any educational agency that won’t be affected.”

BOCES provides state-mandated special education services to more than 550 students in six Northwest Colorado school districts, including Steamboat Sp­­rings, Hayden and South Routt.

Toothaker said the funds it receives from the districts would be cut 6 to 8 percent next year as a result of the governor’s proposed $332 million net reduction to K-12 education. But state law requires BOCES to maintain the special education services it provides year after year, so there are limits to what it can cut.

Other program leaders said last week that they expect their state funding to decrease from places other than K-12 education, including from the Colo­­rado Department of Hu­­man Ser­­vices, which also is slated for cuts in 2011-12.

Stephanie Martin, program supervisor for First Imp­­ressions of Routt County’s Early Child­hood Council, said the organization that supports early childhood programs, child care providers and parent education opportunities expects to lose funding, maybe this year.

She said the Colorado Gen­eral Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee has recommended that about $500,000 be cut from the amount provided to the state’s early childhood councils this year. Martin said the same cut is being proposed for next year, which would make it difficult for First Impressions to provide services for the 2,000 parents with children as old as 5 whom it serves in the county.

“The scary part is that once services go away, it’s going to be really uncertain about how we’re going to get those services back into place,” she said, but added, “Fortunately, with the local support we receive, especially through the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, the (city and county’s Human Resources Coalition) and (Routt County) United Way, that in the midst of these budget cuts, we will be able to continue our work of strengthening resources for families with young children.”

Partners in Routt County also relies on local dollars from the Education Fund Board, which has provided a $50,000 gift in recent years to help pay for the organization’s Ameri­Corps school-based mentoring program. It hasn’t been determined whether the program’s main funding source, the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, will be cut next year.

But Partners Executive Di­­rec­tor Libby Foster said the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Pro­gram through the Colorado De­part­ment of Public Health and Envi­ronment, which provides 25 percent of the funding for its youth mentoring program, is on the chopping block. She said it’s “frightening” to consider losing that $40,000 grant.

Despite the educational program leaders’ concerns, none of the proposed cuts are final. But that uncertainty puts them in a difficult position.

“We’re sort of holding on and waiting to see how that will be fleshed out,” Foster said.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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