About 100 residents gathered Monday on the steps of the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building to support local educators in their effort to end Colorado’s “Budget Stabilization Factor.”
At the rally, some chanted “end the BS,” referring to the Budget Stabilization Factor.
In 2010, the Colorado Legislature passed the Negative Factor, later renamed the Budget Stabilization Factor, as a response to budget issues caused by the Great Recession two years earlier.
The idea behind the Budget Stabilization Factor was to allow the state to borrow funding budgeted for K-12 schools to address funding gaps in things such as health care, higher education, incarceration systems and transportation.
Since the Budget Stabilization Factor was passed in 2010, the state has borrowed $9.7 billion from K-12 school funding. Durango School District 9-R has lost out on about $60 million in funding since the Budget Stabilization Factor was passed.
“The long-term effects of the Budget Stabilization Factor mean that not as many students are succeeding in ways that we know they’re capable of if we had that funding available to us,” said Teri Kopack, ninth grade English teacher at Durango High School.
Breanna Johnson, second grade teacher at Florida Mesa Elementary School, along with Kopack played a large role in organizing Monday’s rally.
“I think the two main goals of this rally are making sure that the state hears us and that the legislators start paying back some of that money that they’ve borrowed, and eliminate the BS factor so that they can’t keep borrowing in the future,” Johnson said.
As emcee of the rally, Kopack brought up a number of fellow teachers and students to speak. Also addressing the crowd was Durango school board member Rick Peterson.
“I find it unacceptable that our state is taking a loan away from funds that are basically ensuring the future of our state,” he said.
Celeste Dunlop, special education teacher at Florida Mesa Elementary, said she spends between $200 to $500 a month out of her own pocket to pay for classroom supplies, snacks and decorations for her classroom.
“The school gives me what they can,” she said. “If I didn’t pay for things out of my own pocket, my classroom would be bare.”
Shawna Clark, another teacher at Florida Mesa Elementary, said she has spent thousands of dollars during her 16 years working as an educator in Colorado.
“I’ve been able to cut it down some, but when I started, I would spend as much as $1,500 a year on my classroom,” she said. “I try to spend under $1,000 at this point per year.”
Alongside Monday’s rally, DHS music teacher Mark Walser drove to the state Legislature in Denver to deliver a petition signed by more that 350 9-R employees asking the state to end the Budget Stabilization Factor.
“The Education Committee, the Joint Budget Committee and Gov. (Jared) Polis are our biggest targets right now to say end the BS,” Johnson said. “They have the power to make the correct decisions and give the correct amount of funding to education, so do it.”