Educators hope May Madness pays off |

Educators hope May Madness pays off

ASPEN A local nonprofit hopes a bit of local May Madness every spring will help Aspen’s schools provide a high-quality education to local youths.The Aspen Education Foundation, which pays for a variety of school programs that traditional tax-fed budgets can’t cover, will hold its annual May Madness fundraising event at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, at the St. Regis Resort Aspen’s grande ballroom.The gala event, with the theme of “All That Jazz,” is expected to draw more than 300 to an evening of dinner, dancing and buying – at either a silent auction, a live one, or both.Chris Bank and the Hybrid Band will provide music for the evening. The auctioneer will be local developer and hospital board chairman John Sarpa, and the rule of attire is “Aspen elegant” – which AEF director Lisa Chiles said means anything from blue jeans and corduroy to tuxedoes and “everything in between.”The AEF, which normally has a budget of approximately $500,000 per year, provides funds for things that the Aspen School District can’t afford on its state-restricted budget of about $9,500 per year, per student. Chiles noted that other wealthy communities spend far more per student on education, specifically citing Scarsdale, N.Y., which she said spends $19,000 per year, per student.Colorado, she said, ranks 47th in the nation in education spending but seventh in per-capita income, and is the second-most-educated state in the nation by some criteria.She explained that Colorado has laws to even out educational expenditures and prevent rich districts from vastly outspending poor ones, but the law also allows organizations such as AEF to provide assistance.The funding goes for such expenses as the $50,000 per year to college advisor Kathy Klug; $170,000 annually for three “math specialists,” one at each school at the public schools campus; and $45,000 for “professional development” for teachers.Chiles said that there was a combined request of more than $600,000 from the district this year, and that the AEF has funding only for about half of what was requested.Among those she is still hoping to raise money for, she said, is $50,000 to pay for a freshman seminar that covers such skills as note-taking, studying, writing and “some life skills.” Another, she said, is an SAT/ACT preparatory class, which would cost about $29,000.Chiles expects the May Madness event to pull in $225,000 or more from combined ticket sales, business sponsorships and auction proceeds.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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