The outcome of the Nov. 1 election will dramatically affect the lives of everyone living in Colorado Springs -- indeed, the entire state. With a low voter turnout of possibly 30 percent expected, those who do cast ballots will profoundly impact the future of our community.
How important is the education of our children? How important is it to elect rational, committed public school leaders, instead of Eric Christen clones bent on dismantling our public schools? How important is it to protect our public universities from a complete cutoff of public funds within five short years?
Pretty important, we say. The following are the Independent's endorsements regarding statewide Referenda C & D, the School District 11 Board of Education and the D-11 bond issue. Next week, we will weigh in with additional picks in other races.
Referenda C & D: YES
Let's look at the cold, hard facts:
Colorado ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending for public education.
Colorado ranks 49th in per capita spending on substance abuse treatment.
Colorado ranks 48th in high school graduation rates.
Colorado ranks 44th in child immunization rates.
Colorado ranks 44th in developmentally disabled funding.
Colorado ranks 44th in spending per mile for highways in poor condition.
Colorado has one of the leanest Medicaid programs in the country -- ranked 49th for low-income, non-elderly people and 48th for low-income children.
As supporters of C & D point out, "If you take away the mountains, Colorado looks a lot like Mississippi."
Referendum C is a small individual sacrifice for the collective good. It would allow Colorado to keep, rather than refund, an estimated $3.7 billion over the next five years. Referendum D would green-light the money to be spent, specifically, on transportation, health care and education.
There's a reason why responsible government leaders, from Gov. Bill Owens to House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, have joined dozens of business, education and civic leaders -- and even the Gazette -- in the fight to pass C & D. If we don't take action by passing these referenda, this great state stands a good chance of looking a lot worse than Mississippi. Vote yes on Referenda C & D.
School District 11 Board of Education
A handful of rich folks and well-paid political operatives -- most of whom don't live in D-11, and some of whom don't even live in Colorado -- have targeted our urban district for a radical takeover. Their goal is to turn the district and its $337.3 million budget over to the private sector.
During this election campaign, shadowy groups with Denver addresses and slick, misleading, glossy brochures are promoting three politicians in this nonpartisan race as "true Republican candidates." These candidates have refused to attend public forums, answer written questionnaires and grant media interviews to articulate their positions.
Don't be fooled. And don't risk even one child's education by subjecting us all to some sort of lab rat experiment led by the mercurial Eric Christen.
There are three seats open this year, and the ideology that wins will take the majority on the seven-member board. Does the district need reform? Absolutely. We're lucky to have three dedicated, experienced and savvy candidates, with a breadth of knowledge, who are ready to step in, roll up their sleeves and get to work.
These are the true reformers who deserve your vote:
John Gudvangen, a Colorado Springs native and finance administrator at Colorado College, is a proven leader in education. He previously spent eight years on the Harrison District 2 school board, two of them as president. He is a former president of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Now living in District 11, with his two children in D-11 schools, Gudvangen knows the challenges of an urban school district and the diverse population it serves. He preaches passionately about the need to provide children with the tools necessary for learning: small class sizes, safe and modern learning environments, a truly welcoming climate for parental involvement, and accountability from administrators and teachers alike.
Tami Hasling also is a Colorado Springs native. She has two teenagers in D-11, and her involvement in the district is vast. Hasling will hit the ground running. She has devoted more than 10 years volunteering with the Parent-Teacher Association and is the president of the El Paso Council PTA. Like Gudvangen, she is passionate about small class sizes and is fervent about engaging parents in their children's education. She realizes that not every student is headed to the Ivy League, and thus must be given the skills to succeed.
Sandra Mann knows by heart the importance of civil discourse -- and how the absence of it leads to chaos. A 25-year veteran of local broadcast journalism, Mann currently is the director of public relations and media for Adelphia Communications. She has a son at Palmer High School; her daughter now is in college. Mann, a D-11 basketball official, knows this is a critical time for the district. As she succinctly puts it, "Our teachers are ridiculed and students are suffering." Bottom line: "Student achievement needs to be a priority."
District 11 Issue 3B: YES
Last year, voters decisively endorsed a $131.7 million bond issue to fix deteriorating buildings and systems in our city's largest school district. Unfortunately -- possibly due to a combination of confusion and poor ballot placement -- voters didn't approve a companion measure that would give D-11 the go-ahead to issue the bonds.
As a result, the district cannot spend money earmarked for replacing aging electrical, plumbing, intercom and fire alarm systems, and old roofs; repairing or replacing sewer systems; and building new schools and classrooms. Voting for 3B would enable the district to actually spend the money that already has been approved by voters.
The average age of the 60-plus schools in D-11 is 44 years old, and their owners -- us -- have not approved any money to fix them since 1996. Would you allow your own home to crumble down around you this way? Of course not. It's time to invest in our children's safety and well-being. Vote yes on 3B.