DougCo Finances Shouldn’t Require A Crystal Ball

Letter to the Editor printed in the February 21, 2013 editions of the Highlands Ranch Herald and Castle Rock News Press:

DougCo Finances Shouldn’t Require A Crystal Ball

If the Douglas County School District (DCSD) had known it was sitting on a large operating surplus last year, would it still have made the decision to cut $4.1 million from schools’ operating budgets? In a recent meeting, Chief Financial Officer, Bonnie Betz stated, “I wish we would have known last spring. Absolutely that would have made things better. But we didn’t.” Assistant Superintendent Dan McMinimee added “Ok, so it was unnecessary now that we know the full scope of what happened…. but I didn’t have a crystal ball.”

The Strong Schools Coalition (SSC) takes exception with these statements. A year ago, the public began questioning the surpluses. Multiple requests were made asking the school board to address why large operating surpluses were occurring simultaneously with deep cuts to the classrooms. Recommendations highlighting available reserves, which could have easily alleviated the cuts to the schools went unanswered. A recent Fitch report confirms large operating surpluses over the past two years.

Students are being negatively impacted by the District’s inability to budget accurately:

  • DCSD class sizes are significantly higher than our neighboring school districts
  • high school teachers have less time to devote to individual students’ needs
  • high school students receive less instructional time
  • parents are paying higher fees for textbooks, technology, athletics and busing

Parents expressed their concerns in a recent DCSD Telephone Town Hall with issues identified as “warehousing students in large study halls”, “open periods putting students at a competitive disadvantage” and a request to “reinstate some of the curriculum.”

Action is needed now. It is time to address the year-after-year unexplained surpluses. It is time to restore schools’ operating budgets so that students may receive the education they deserve to prepare them and our country for the future. It is time for DCSD to budget more accurately.

Laura Mutton
President, Strong Schools Coalition

Susan Meek
Vice-President, Strong Schools Coalition