DougCo superintendent educates community on desperate funding needs

Suzie Glassman

By Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) While most educators take time off in the summer, DougCo Superintendent Erin Kane continues to update the community on the district’s financial needs through virtual meetings and emails.

Her campaign includes a five-minute animation and a much longer slide show that summarizes how the district gets money for teachers and schools and explains the district’s priorities for the next several years.

Money for the district comes from a combination of local property taxes and state funding. Despite Douglas County’s property wealth, the district remains less competitive with nearby schools because the state then reduces its share through the budget stabilization factor.

“You are allowed to ask local taxpayers for a mill levy override that increases your budget up to 25%,” says Kane. The state doesn’t factor that money into the amount the district receives.

Kane notes that DougCo loses many teachers to the Cherry Creek district because it increased its budget to the maximum amount permitted through mill levies. “With ours sitting at 12% and theirs at 25%, it’s a difference of about $94 million,” she says.

Kane’s virtual meetings allow for 30 minutes of community questions. The final Zoom meeting is 5 p.m. on July 20.

Participants can ask questions, and here are a few of the most common:

How will we know the MLO and Bond are being spent appropriately?

Kane says the Mill Bond Oversight Committee, created in 2018, is made up of community volunteers and ensures the board and superintendent spend the money as promised and as explained on the ballot.

Kane says the committee has openings for anyone interested in joining.

What is the district doing to ensure school safety?

Kane says the district has spent the last four years increasing security and hardening its buildings using 2018 bond dollars and a $10 million grant from the Douglas County Commissioners Office.

“Our greatest advantage is the district's incredible partnerships with the county’s law enforcement offices,” she said. They continue to work together to develop training programs and protocols to ensure DougCo students are safe.

In response to a question about the district’s relationship with Able Shepard, a program that provides active shooter response and violent encounter training for individuals, Kane said there is no formal relationship, and there are no plans to arm teachers in DougCo.

What will happen to the Educational Equity policy?

Several community members want to know what will happen to the district’s equity policy and if students will lose protection from discrimination if it goes away.

“The equity policy is in place and hasn’t been changed,” said Kane. Kane explained the board has directed her to get feedback on the policy, and she’ll present a plan to the board in August.

Kane’s priority is to find out what people’s fears are regarding the program, like what will happen to gifted and talented programming and other concerns, and provide a clear plan for what will and won’t happen.

“I’m not sure it needs to be changed or changed very much,” Kane said. “We need clarity on what will happen. For example, we aren’t going to ban books, but maybe we’ll flag some books for parent approval.

“We want to take care of each and every child in our schools, no matter their background or how they identify.”

Are DCSD employees leaving the district?

The DCSD website states, “Turnover is within a percentage point or two of prior years. As of last week, 1,160 employees have informed us they are leaving our district. Last year, that number was 1,146 as of June 30, 2021.”

However, according to an open records request, as of July 1, 1,711 employees are not returning. That number doesn’t include seasonal employees or those on a one-year contract.

Will transportation return to normal?

Many parents are desperate to see school bus routes return to pre-pandemic levels, but it doesn’t appear that will happen any time soon.

Kane said the district doesn’t have enough drivers due to a massive labor shortage and wages that aren’t competitive with other local businesses. She says that until the labor shortage gets better, the district will continue to have trouble maintaining our routes.

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I'm a reporter covering the Douglas County School District in Colorado.

Denver, CO

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