Kaplan: Aspen Skiing Co. supports Amendment 66 | AspenTimes.com

Kaplan: Aspen Skiing Co. supports Amendment 66

Even though the Aspen Idea — the concept of the complete life that nourishes mind, body and spirit — is part of our company’s guiding principles, living up to it isn’t easy. We struggle with it every day. We are, after all, Aspen. It requires diligence to pursue a great quality of life and make a difference.

It’s in the context of our perennial struggle to live up to the Aspen Idea that Aspen Skiing Co. supports Amendment 66, which would increase income taxes to fund state schools. We agree with the Aspen School District, which noted that “Amendment 66 appears to have definable benefits for Colorado as a whole.”

Contrary to the way Aspen is often — and wrongly — portrayed in the media, the Aspen Idea is not about offering an elite, utopian escape where residents and a select few can come to renew themselves. It’s about trying to change society for the better. The Aspen Institute, after all, was created to focus on humanistic studies. So while the Aspen School District only gets a few hundred thousand dollars more than last year with the passage of Amendment 66, the state as a whole gets $1 billion to bring funding levels up to a (semi) respectable number. (Colorado still ranks only 42nd nationally in per-pupil spending.)

The Aspen School District is enjoying great success under current funding — and thanks to phenomenal support from our community. It is, in fact, a great school system.

Now, Amendment 66 will allow us to begin to offer all children in Colorado the quality of education that is only available today in select districts such as Cherry Creek and Aspen. Amendment 66 is a chance to think bigger — beyond just our children to include our neighbors’ children as well.

We’ve been working on this broader approach lately as we expand our funding for education, child care and health care further downvalley. This makes sense for two clear reasons. Our workforce is now split 50 percent upvalley and 50 percent downvalley, so quality of education throughout the entire community matters. And second, it’s just the right thing to do.

It’s for similar reasons that Skico supports the work of two of our employees — Matt Hamilton and Richard Stettner — who serve on the RE-1 School Board. This commitment means they miss meetings and even parts of their workday. But we see it as an investment in the valley economy and therefore in our business to share two hard-working and thoughtful managers with the community.

The reality is that Amendment 66 makes sense on its face. Hiring and keeping great employees is key to our success. And quality of education regularly ranks as a top reason for choosing where to live and subsequently work. Amendment 66 levels the playing field and allows underfunded schools access to reasonable budgets so that they don’t have to take extreme measures such as four-day school weeks. It funds full-day kindergarten. (Yes, full-day kindergarten, parents.) Study after study shows that early childhood education is key to long-term success. Amendment 66 doubles the number of pre-K slots for kids whose parents can’t afford it. This enables them to enter kindergarten prepared. No business, no community and no state is well-served by depriving its most needy citizens of the tools they need to be successful if they work hard.

Our region used to be defined by Aspen on one end and Glenwood Springs on the other. Today, we are simply “the Roaring Fork Valley.” On education, it’s not RE-1 and everyone else. It’s all of us. Please vote yes on Amendment 66. Not for them but for all of us.

Mike Kaplan is president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Co.

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