CHERRY CREEK SCHOOLS BOARD PRESIDENT DAVE WILLMAN: Why I support Amendment 73, and you should, too

A Cherry Creek Schools, we have high expectations for all of our students, and every day they rise to those expectations and soar even higher. We should have the same high expectations for ourselves when it comes to delivering on our promise of an excellent education for all of our students.

They deserve nothing less than the best.

Our work in CCSD has proven time and again that when we invest in our students, we invest directly in our future. That is why I support Amendment 73. This measure is an investment in students and an investment in our state’s continued prosperity. Amendment 73 will benefit all Cherry Creek School District students, as well as hundreds of thousands of children and families across the state.

It’s no secret that Colorado lags far behind other states when it comes to school funding. When we have school districts in this state that can’t afford to stay open five days a week, the system is broken. When we have teachers in Colorado who can’t afford to own a home or raise a family on the salary they earn, the system is broken. When we have a need for more mental health supports in schools, but many districts in the state don’t have enough funding to invest in more social workers, guidance counselors and psychologists, the system is broken.

Amendment 73 offers a solution.

Amendment 73 is a grassroots-driven ballot initiative that would bring Colorado’s investment in public education closer to the national average by raising $1.6 billion annually. According to the fiscal impact statement created by the Colorado Legislative Council staff, 92 percent of taxpayers will see no impact on their individual income taxes. At a time when Colorado’s economy is booming and federal income taxes have dipped significantly, the $1.6 billion raised through Amendment 73 would be a lifeline for schools in Colorado.

In Cherry Creek Schools, we have been fortunate. We are beyond grateful that our community has continuously chosen to support the district in bond and budget elections. In turn, the district has strategically and smartly invested in rigorous academic programming, increases in mental health staff, an effective data-driven model of teacher collaboration, a state-of-the-art Cherry Creek Innovation Campus and innovative redesigned spaces at all of our elementary and middle schools that will cultivate curiosity, creative and critical thinking skills in our students.

While these bond and budget measures have been invaluable to our community, a more permanent and structural funding fix is needed for CCSD and every other district in the state. In order to continue our focus on innovation, our work for inclusive excellence, our commitment to recruiting and retaining the highest-quality teachers and our dedication to preparing all students for success in college and career, the district will require new operating funds in the coming years or risk drastic reductions that could impact our critical work for students.

This work goes beyond the classroom. At Cherry Creek Schools, ensuring the mental health and safety of every one of our students is among our highest priorities. Operating funds from the passage of Amendment 73 would help maintain our commitment to our students’ mental health, physical security and overall wellness. That includes maintaining staffing levels that include mental health professionals and counselors in every one of our buildings, and keeping current our state-of-the-art security systems and personnel levels. Learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and our students must feel happy, healthy and safe to achieve their potential.

Even with the support of our community, achieving our standard of excellence over the years has been a challenge. The state legislature has continued to underfund public education across the state, including right here at CCSD. Over the past nine years, CCSD has been underfunded to the tune of $400 million.

The funds generated by Amendment 73 would benefit CCSD and districts across the state by funding full-day kindergarten, programming for special education and gifted and talented students, supports for English learners and more. It would help make teachers’ salaries more competitive with other states so we can attract the best talent and encourage more bright young people to pursue the teaching profession. It would ensure that mental health and safety continues to receive the proper attention and the requisite resources.

This is a win-win for our state, our community and our students.

For nearly 70 years, the Cherry Creek Schools community has worked to provide the highest-caliber education for its children. Building strong schools has helped us build strong neighborhoods, strong property values and a well-educated workforce. Let’s continue that tradition of excellence far into the future.

Vote yes on Amendment 73.

Dave Willman is president of the Cherry Creek Schools Board of Education