Marolt: The three A’s of educational excellence: academics, activities, all-in | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: The three A’s of educational excellence: academics, activities, all-in

Roger Marolt
Roger This

If you don't vote to fund our schools with a "yes" vote on ballot question 3A to make up for the mistakes of the state of Colorado, I think you are out of your mind. This community has one of the indisputably best public-education systems in the country, and unfortunately, it is in spite of our state government at work instead of because of it. Colorado's support of education ranks with the lowest in this country. It is abysmal, embarrassing and awful for a state projecting itself as progressive. We're one of the first to legalize marijuana and one of the last to fund education. That is the DNA of our dunce in the corner.

It's easy to explain what the passage of 3A does: It makes up for cutbacks in dollars the state of Colorado will be giving us in the coming years. The money raised by 3A won't go for new stuff. It allows us to maintain what we currently are providing for our children.

As to why the state is cutting back, it is because of a complex machination of tax quagmire dubbed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which basically makes up for shortfalls in tax collections during the Great Recession by cutting back further on tax collections now that things are looking up. Yes, it makes no sense and, thus, adequately explains why our schools are looking at $2.2 million annual budget deficits for the next half-decade.

Another easy thing to explain is how much this tax increase is going to cost you: If you own a house worth a million bucks, this new tax is going to cost $30 per year. Yes, that's all. Thank goodness there is strength in numbers, or otherwise this thing wouldn't get us anywhere. As it is, 3A is slated to cover only $991,000 of the annual projected deficit of $2.2 million I just told you about. We have to start somewhere, though, and this also should serve as a reminder that we need to renew the city of Aspen sales tax for funding education next year, too, but that's another column.

As long as I'm throwing out easy answers, some of you might be wondering just exactly how our school district is currently spending the hard-earned money you give it. The short answer is on small classroom sizes. I'm talking about low teacher-to-student ratios. We've got a lot of great teachers working with small groups of kids, giving them a lot more individual attention than most public schools.

Here's a fact for you: According to the U.S. Department of Education, the national average that public-school districts spent on salaries between 2001 and 2012 was 80 percent of their budgets. Here in the Aspen School District, I am proud to tell you that we spend 85 percent of our budget on people.

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Teachers are the most valuable asset any educational system can bring to the table to accomplish its missions. In Aspen, we are devoting more of our annual budgets on teachers who, I believe, are better than the national average. That's great leveraging of your dollars.

If you take a close look at our schools, one of the first things you will notice is that there is no wasted capacity. Every classroom is bustling with activity. Every teacher is engaged in orchestrating it. Everyone is doing their job to keep our kids busy and moving forward in a fast-paced, innovative educational environment.

Our kids are busy in classes. They are busy in sports. They are busy in the arts. They are busy in community service. They are busy in the cutting-edge idea of learning outside the classroom that has been available here for more than four decades. They are busy in a program that will get every single one of them into college or vocational training if they are interested. They are learning math, engineering, mechanics, meteorology and physics while they are learning to fly, for crying out loud! Nobody's dropping out of school in Aspen; there's no time left for that!

There is a reason our schools are the envy of this state. There is a reason that people who can afford to move anywhere bring their families here to gift their children the advantage of our school system. There is a reason that we have dozens of highly qualified teachers from everywhere applying for coveted job openings here. The reason is you and your commitment to making our school district all of these things and more. Keep up the great work! Vote "yes" on 3A.

Roger Marolt believes education is the vaccine against that what makes the world ill. Email at roger@maroltllp.com.

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