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D-2’s investment in education deserves applause 

Voice of Reason

Harrison School District 2 voters deserve a round of applause for supporting the $180 million school bond issue last November. The average $15 per month per homeowner is an investment in the health of the school district and the entire Southeast region.

Opportunity Harrison, the vote yes campaign behind the bond issue, was backed by a crack team of political operatives and financial support from a Springs businessman and the nonprofit organization he founded to invest in community development and education.

For that, too, we raise a glass to the Legacy Institute, a project of the John and Margot Lane family.

The $180 million will renovate every D-2 academic campus, perform needed updates to the district’s finance, transportation and operations buildings, and help fund improvements to its charter schools.

And as Co-Superintendent John Rogerson told Southeast Express Editor Regan Foster for this week’s cover story (p. 14): “The trust that the community put in to do this is tremendous and we must honor that.”

We’re proud of the community’s decision to invest in education. Public school financing in Colorado involves a complicated web of federal and state dollars that are distributed on a per-pupil basis. The formula is weird, and can seem malleable and unfair because of loopholes legislators can be all too eager to exploit.

So local taxpayers end up having a huge impact on their school districts. When they agree to support school funding, they are agreeing to do so through a property tax increase.
And in an economically fluid area like the Southeast, with its lower incomes and highly transient population, that’s a big deal.
Which is why, though we laud the efforts of Opportunity Harrison and the sacrifice made by voters, only time will tell whether their investment leads to academic growth for D-2 students. The money may only be spent on physical capital — and improved ventilation systems and better lighting don’t necessarily have a direct impact on learning.

However, a December 2018 study of inner-city Los Angeles Unified School District found that such capital investments brought improvements in student performance — kids who spent four years in a new school saw a 10 percent jump in math test scores and a 5 percent hike in English-language arts results. According to results of that study, published by the American Economic Association, students in improved schools spent four additional days in class over the previous year and housing prices increased by 6 percent in neighborhoods that had received new schools.

Similar results here can strengthen the economy in this area, which has historically been ignored or overlooked by external investors. Considering all of the factors — the well-run campaign, support from residents and the positive results of similar efforts elsewhere — we feel justified in saying we fully expect to see D-2 posting marked improvements in academic performance and teacher retention — not just upgrading its mechanical systems.

The community took a chance, seeing the potential not just for shiny new buildings, but for some stabilization of a district that has been rocked by administrative upheaval and teacher turnover. It is critical that D-2 justify that trust by earning an academic, administrative and social A+.

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