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Rather than quibble, we can find a use for school funding change

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Quibbling over funding levels at the Gold Dome among legislators is certainly not a “breaking

news” announcement. That’s why I debated whether to write about the latest issue over a calculation involving K-12 funding.

Long story short, it revolves around this school year’s student head count. Fewer students were accounted for while more funding is available. Democrats want to keep the extra funding for K-12 while Republicans want to take the less than 1/10 of one percent of the school funding for savings in the General Fund.

Thus, the “tug of war” has evolved.

It amounts to $12.9 million which would average $8.00 more per student across Colorado in the 2018-19 school year. Remember, public schools have not been funded in compliance with the state constitution since the Great Recession. Known as the “negative factor”, each year the legislature fails to authorize the funding level dictated by the constitutional provision. Thus, the $12.9 million could be applied toward reducing the “negative factor” for the next budget year. However, I have a better argument for how the money could and should be appropriated

Safety at schools is no. 1

The $12.9 million could be a “jump start” for funding improved security measures at schools across our state. This is a high priority and is on everyone’s mind. Many school districts do not have the funds to even do basic security enhancements.

As I recently wrote, improving safety at our schools is not simply a gun control issue. There is no single solution to this national problem.

In addition to tighter gun laws such as a minimum age of 21 to purchase guns, mental health programs and tighter security at our school facilities are important parts of the “formula” to protect our students, teachers and administrators.

So, why not take the unexpected funding and create a separate category within K-12 school funding strictly for enhanced security measures at public school facilities? There could be a variety of eligible purchases. For example, cameras at every entrance with a central monitoring station in the building. Building a second door to each entrance with an electronic locking system could be an additional line of security. The installation of metal detectors at entrances would be quite helpful.

I know this is controversial, but unfortunately the time has come to take certain steps to assure children’s safety that were unacceptable in the past. It’s a “sign of the times” as we see beefed up security at Bronco games, city halls, church services etc. There are other security enhancements that could be done, but you get the point. School districts could apply for grants to implement needs unique to each district. Surely, we could get bi-partisan support for school children’s safety at public schools, right?

Positive reactions to Florida school shooting incident

Speaking of the safety of school children and the reaction to the Parkland, Florida horrific shootings, have you followed the reactions across the country? Specifically, have you noticed actions by state legislatures which to varying degrees are tightening gun control?

It’s happening, thanks in part, to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students’ assertive actions. Their demands for major gun control measures from their Florida State Legislature and their rallies have sparked actions elsewhere. Even President Trump has reacted with some proposals and corporate America has responded in some cases. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart Stores have imposed certain restrictions on gun sales.

Legislation to increase the minimum age to be able to purchase a gun has sprung up in various state legislatures. Elimination of bump stocks on semi-automatic weapons is being adopted. Allowing teachers to be armed in school class rooms has been approved in Florida and is being promoted by President Trump to increase security. While I very much disagree with arming teachers in classrooms, it does show that the President and some state legislatures are thinking about ways to improve security.

The Colorado Legislature needs to get on board!

Adults need to take responsibility

Protecting our precious children especially at schools is so fundamental it should be a no brainer regarding additional ways and measures for the President, Congress, state legislatures, county commissioners, city councils and school boards to reduce the shootings in schools. Increased protective measures in other settings where people assemble such as churches, night clubs, movie theatres and concerts are obviously warranted as well.

However, it is like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who said after the shooting — I am a student; a child. It is not my responsibility to have a safe environment at school. It is the responsibility of the adults.

Yes, the student said it so succinctly. We adults as taxpayers, principals, parents, legislators, police officers, mental health providers, business people, school boards, city councils, Congressional members and the President of the United States all have a responsibility to protect and keep our precious children and grandchildren safe.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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