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Schools once promised an increase now face major cuts

10:30 PM, Feb 16, 2011   |    comments
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"Instead, it's the exact opposite," Boehm, a teacher at Kyffin Elementary in Golden, said on Thursday.

Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) offered a new budget proposal, one that includes a $332 million cut to K-12 education.

"I was surprised at the magnitude," Boehm said.

Now, educators at public schools across the state are bracing for a budget problem that just went from bad to much worse.

"I'm certainly shocked that it's going to be as bad as it is," Valerie Braginetz, principal at Kyffin Elementary, said.

While no decision have made regarding the cuts, Braginetz knows the likely outcome at her school and at other schools across Colorado are job cuts.

"I think it's difficult for us to keep our morale up when we know our colleagues are losing their jobs," Braginetz said.

Both the Colorado Education Association and the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers say the proposed cut is short-sighted and risks the future competitiveness of Colorado. CEA, the state's largest union, said increasing revenue should be considered to help solve the state's budget crisis.

With one-time fixes and federal stimulus money running out, Hickenlooper said he had no choice but to look at cutting education, which comprises about 40 percent of the budget.

If teachers are eliminated, class sizes will go up. Boehm says that's tough to accept in a time when high student achievement is a priority.

"We're doing more tracking of kids to find out where they are and I think it just takes a lot of time and to have bigger classes is going to be a drawback," Boehm said.

Bragnetz says leaders with Jefferson County Schools were preparing a plan for another lean budget year.

"With this, I think it throws our whole plan off," Braginetz said. "I believe that it is a scary time for us as a district."

Jonna Levine is the co-founder of Great Ed Jeffco, a parent group looking for answers to these budget issues.

"It just makes your stomach sick," Levine said.

She says parents must think about expanding their roles when it comes to supporting schools and that includes talk of possibly raising taxes.

"I don't think they're going to have any choice," Levine said. "There has to be something the community needs to look at when it comes to taxes."

Levine says the Jefferson County School District has worked hard to keep previous cuts from affecting classrooms.

"I don't think people realize truly what a good job the district does already," Levine said.

Levine and Great Ed Jeffco will put on a public panel to address all sorts of budget issues at Lakewood High School on March 8.

Braginetz hopes some solution can be found soon or else schools will start to look much different than they do now.

"I think the biggest challenge for all of us is knowing that it's going to be very difficult for us to meet the needs of our children," Braginetz said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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