"Everything is on the Table" ; Looming Cuts Likely to Impact D51 Classrooms

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - In an effort to solve the state's mounting budget crisis, Governor John Hickenlooper is asking state lawmakers to slash $375 million from K-12 education -- much to the chagrin of School District 51.

Melissa Callahan-DeVita, Director of Support Services for School District 51 says that would amount to a $9.2 million cut for the district. And after reducing spending by 8 percent for this school year, she says the list of places outside the classroom where they can make cuts has grown very short.

It's a harsh reality, but one District 51 says it's been preparing to stomach for quite some time.

"We knew that we were expecting budget cuts," said DeVita. "We just didn't know the magnitude."

Tuesday, Governor John Hickenlooper delivered his budget proposal to state lawmakers, asking to slash $375 million from K-12 education. District officials say that's near the top end of what they expected to see.

"Now it's time to get our pencils, sharpen them, and figure out how can we offer the best educational opportunities to our students under this lower buget picture," said DeVita.

Hickenlooper says it's not a decision he wanted to have to make.

"It's tough," said Hickenlooper. "There not a lot of places to turn when you're facing a budget deficit the size that we are."

Each year, the state spends more on K-12 education than any other three parts of the budget combined.

"People ask John Dillinger why he robbed banks," said Hickenlooper. "It's because it's where the money is. K-12 education is 41 percent of the entire state budget."

And as a result, he says, it must share the burden of cost cutting measures.

"I think public education is the greatest anti-poverty program there is," said Hickenlooper. "But at a certain point if you don't have the money you can't keep spending it, no matter how worthy the purpose."

District officials say they've already been hard at work coming up with different scenarios.

"Everything is on the table at this point," said DeVita.

But after trimming support, administration, operations, and central services budgets for the 2010-2011 school year, instruction --the biggest piece of their budget pie -- will likely take a hit. District officials say currently, 87 cents of every dollar they receive goes directly to classroom instruction.

"For us to find this kind of money, I don't know that we can without at least somewhat impacting our school buildings," said DeVita.

Because it's ultimately state lawmakers that will approve a final budget, district officials say it's very possible there could more or less cuts than what the Governor has asked for.

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