By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock) After a series of emotional pleas from community members, two DCSD principals, and a charter school leader, the Douglas County school board voted unanimously to put a mill levy override (MLO) and bond on the November ballot.
Rock Ridge principal Peter Mosby said, "As an administrator, I see firsthand the challenges we have with the current salary scale for both classified and licensed staff." He said he's been unable to hire teachers for necessary positions because the district can't offer enough money to the applicants, and transportation challenges continue to plague the school due to a lack of drivers.
Brad Geiger, a DCSD parent, encouraged the board to demonstrate “political courage” by supporting the MLO and bond. He advised them to reach across traditional political lines and consider speaking on radio shows or conducting interviews with people of opposing views.
Others showed solitary by standing at the podium with people they typically disagree with to argue that bonds outlive boards and the district’s financial needs are so great that they must come together on the issue.
Several community members also argued that the district's non-competitive salaries hurt children with special needs and learning disabilities the most because essential positions remain unfilled, and schools can't provide needed services. Others spoke about the need for more neighborhood schools and enhanced security.
Should the MLO pass, superintendent Erin Kane demonstrated how DougCo's per-pupil revenue would line up with that of Jefferson County and Littleton school districts, making DougCo more competitive with surrounding districts.
Board addresses voucher question
Director Elizabeth Hanson asked DougCo superintendent Erin Kane what the hypothetical consequences would be if this board or a future board decided to punt the entire plan and create a voucher program down the road.
A representative from Butler Snow, a law firm working with the district on ballot language, explained the board couldn't take the $60 million in two years and use it for vouchers without violating state law. The board would have to take it back to the voters for approval.
Board president Mike Peterson explained what he meant by an earlier statement to the media that "anything is possible in the future" when asked about vouchers for private schools in Douglas County. He said he wanted to know if a program came down from the state that got rid of MLOs and went to some sort of universal funding program, what would happen to the MLO money?
Kane said they'd violate state law if they used the money for vouchers or to arm teachers, which she's never heard any board member discuss.
Fair campaign practices act kicks in
Colorado's Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) prohibits using public resources to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, according to DCSD's campaign "dos and don'ts" flier. Employees can issue factual summaries with arguments for and against issues on the ballot.
Employees can't use their district email addresses or district facilities for campaign activities during school hours. However, they can use their personal time to advocate for or against a ballot measure.
Board members are not district employees and can continue to advocate for the MLO and bond up to the election.