You can help Park County Schools by voting “yes” on Proposition CC in November. Prop CC will allow the state to keep more of the revenue it already collects without raising taxes.
The additional revenue will be used for public schools, higher education, and roads and bridges in Park County and across the state.
Prop CC has important implications for Park County, where the difference between salaries and the cost of living in Park County makes it difficult to attract qualified teachers. The problem is compounded by student loan debt, which makes housing even more out of reach.
“There are no good guys or bad guys,” said Peter Lubin, the integrated education teacher in Park County. “There’s just not enough money from the state.”
Other school districts across Colorado are facing the same problem. It is difficult to support a family on a teacher’s salary in Colorado. In Park County RE-2, this budget shortfall has been made worse by some budget decisions made by the local school board. Teacher salaries do not appear to be a priority in this district.
“We have two classes of teachers”, Lubin said. “There are older teachers who came here when salaries were more in line with the cost of living. These teachers bought homes, put down roots, and really contributed to this community. Then there are younger teachers who cannot afford to live in the district or can live with their parents.”
A growing number of these new teachers do not have any training in education and must obtain an emergency certification. While they may be knowledgeable in their subject, their lack of teaching training and experience often hurts student performance.
Older teachers have watched their standard of living decline because of persistent underpayment. Lower salaries create less money for retirement, forcing retired teachers to leave the communities where they lived and served for decades.
These untenable conditions forced teachers in Park County to seek the required state clearance to go on strike. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment agreed and granted the teachers’ request in late September.
This action is not about teachers being greedy or selfish. This is about teachers wanting to live in the school district where they teach. It’s about teachers wanting to be a part of their community instead of commuting from outside. It’s about professionals wanting to provide for their families.
It’s also about the future of Fairplay. Homeowners who have no children still have a vested interest in maintaining quality public schools in order to maintain property values. The quality of the local public school and the workforce it produces are important considerations for potential employers. Economic development is limited in communities that do not have good public schools. Small communities die when they lose their local schools.
Prop CC will make it easier for school districts like Park County RE-2 to recruit and keep qualified teachers. It will save the schools and might even save the community.