Just Giving Jeffco Schools The Money They Ask for Won't Fix the Problem

Update: Pam let me know that a couple things quoted from her interview with 9News weren’t quite right. So I’ve marked them below.

Yesterday, Education Policy Center Director Pam Benigno spoke out about a proposal to raise school property taxes in Jefferson County:

“Well, I think this is definitely not a good time,” said Pam Benigno, director of the Education Policy Center within the Independence Institute. The Independence Institute is a Golden-based, non-partisan government watchdog group.

Benigno says the homeowner should not have to shoulder the burden of JeffCo’s increasing costs.

“I think that this is, this is too much,” said Benigno. “However, the system is the problem. They will always need more money.”

Benigno claims that while attending a meeting on the 2004 bond election [it was actually many years before that], a district staffer told her JeffCo plans on a bond issue or mill levy increase once every four or five years.

“As a citizen of Jefferson County, that really makes me uncomfortable to know that they’re planning on raising my taxes every five years,” said Benigno. “And, this time, this has been only four years.”

Benigno says the district should take a hard look at the way teachers are paid and restructure the system so it is more efficient. She says JeffCo should concentrate on offering students more school choice and be a stronger advocate for charter schools instead of just asking for more money from a population that is aging and contains fewer school-aged kids.

“Well, the problem is nobody really knows how much they need,” said Benigno. “Part of the government bureaucracy is to always need more money.”

I know you often hear some people say that they want to do things “for the children,” but in this case it’s not clear actually how much this money will help the children. We’ve seen there is no connection between spending increases and improving student outcomes. Pam is right: Jeffco needs to start responding better to parents’ demands for different kinds of school choices for their kids first.

Still, seeing Colorado’s largest school district begging for money once again leaves me with a lot of questions, like: How much of the hundreds of millions Jeffco spends gets to the classroom now? How effective is that money being used in the classroom? Shouldn’t it be easier for my parents and other people who pay taxes to see just exactly how that money is being spent? And besides, didn’t the Governor already raise school property taxes?