Hamner: Providing a quality education for tomorrow’s leaders is my priority | SummitDaily.com

Hamner: Providing a quality education for tomorrow’s leaders is my priority

Rep. Mille Hamner
special to the daily

As our children and their families turn their attention to going back to school after the summer break, I face the fact that this is the first time in 35 years that I won’t be joining them in their school or school district. Although I will miss out on the excitement that comes with the first days of school, I know that my work at the state level in supporting K-12 education will continue to be as rewarding and exciting!

As the former superintendent of Summit School District, I worked in the trenches of our public education system. I know firsthand how challenging it is to provide a quality, well-rounded education to each and every student, especially in a time when budgets have been cut dramatically each year. Recent budget cuts in the state budget passed on to Colorado’s school districts have resulted in a loss of specialized teachers and teacher’s aides, a reduction of classroom materials and textbooks, an increase in class sizes and shortened school weeks.

In Colorado, we are constitutionally obligated to balance our budget every year and in a recession this means we have to make cuts to do so. K-12 education comprises 40 percent of our budget which means it faces possibly the biggest cuts. This year was no exception. The initial proposal was to cut $375 million from K-12 education alone, which would have been devastating. Even if you don’t have children in school, it’s easy to understand how this would affect the quality of education we provide.

In the spring I joined my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate in hosting “Budget Listening Tours” across the state. I held one in Eagle and received very helpful feedback from the constituents who attended. Education and education funding was of chief interest to you. I also heard loud and clear that we, as legislators, should spare cuts to K-12 whenever and however possible.

We managed to reduce the cut by adding an amendment to the budget that is using $22.5 million from the State Education Fund to address funding shortfalls in classrooms right now. And, based on a positive June revenue forecast, the amendment will also direct $67.5 million to the Public School Fund. This money can be applied to the neediest school districts across the state for changes in enrollment, special needs students and to reduce mid-year cuts.

Despite our intervention, we still had to make a big cut that will affect schools and children, but we worked hard to find a compromise that wouldn’t hurt as bad. Next year we will face another tough budget situation. I remain committed to finding innovative solutions to our funding problems and to ensuring that our education system is strong.

Should you have questions or concerns about our district or state, I encourage you to contact me at rephamner@gmail.com or (303) 866-2952. It’s really helpful for me to hear from my constituents.

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