(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Students are returning back to school at Academy School District 20 (ASD20). While the buildings begin to fill with students, the district has its eyes on the November ballot as they are proposing a mill levy override.
“The reality is, in the Pikes Peak region, we pay our teachers,” said ASD20 Chief Communication Officer, Allison Cortez. “We’re third right now on that list and we’re going to fall further behind if we can’t figure out how to get them increases. So, one of the things that this would really do is it would get our starting salaries for our teachers up and those support staff, which helps us really attract more teachers and helps us keep the teachers that we have.”
Specifically, money from the mill levy override would go to increasing teacher and staff salaries, facility maintenance, adding armed security officers to all elementary schools, and funding charter schools in the district.
“Security is something that always sort of hurts our heart to have to talk about,” Cortez said. “I don’t think we ever imagined we’d be in a place where every single school would need multiple security officers and right now, our middle and our high schools have their own security officer in addition to our SROs. We don’t have that capability at our elementary schools.”
As a parent of a student in ASD20, Jennifer Paul shared the importance of adding this extra security measure inside of elementary schools.
“The other piece of the security guards in our elementary schools, it’s so important to be able to support those initiatives to make sure that honestly, our deepest and nearest assets, our children, are protected,” Paul said. “And in a space that I know I can send them to and know that they’ll come home to me because that is absolutely something that’s important.”
There is a breakdown online as to how this will impact Southern Colorado homeowners. Specifically, a home valued at $100,000 would raise the cost to $2.28 per month and a home valued at $500,00 would raise the cost to $11.40 per month.
One homeowner in the area expressed her concerns about the mill levy override and how ASD20 would be using the funds.
“There is declining enrollment in this greater area, but yet the schools continue to need more money,” Darcy Schoening said. “So… it makes me feel like the money is not being managed well.”
When asked how other community members feel about this initiative, Schoening said, “it’s usually split about 50/50, where there is part of the population that sees it kind of at a surface level, while the teachers need more money. Then the more fiscal conservatives in my community tend to believe that there are just too many ways that the money is being wasted that could instead be allocated to the teachers.”
For one Colorado Springs teacher, he argued this measure could help support both safety measures in schools and bring young talent into the Pikes Peak Region.
“I think that young teachers that are trying to get into the profession, they kind of push away from the profession whenever they see that the salaries are as low as they are,” Dalton Smith said. “But getting teachers, the salary that they rightfully deserve is really important.”
Throughout the summer months, multiple school districts hosted job fairs to try and recruit more talent. If voters approve the mill levy override it would raise the salaries of teachers and staff in ASD20.
“I think that this particular initiative that District 20 is doing is incredibly important in order to bring teachers into our district and to maintain the standards that District 20 is known for,” Paul said. “So I think it’s incredibly important to be able to support.”
“I think that when you support schools, it’s the base for everything else,” said Smith said. “Whenever you support students, you allow them to thrive and achieve their goals in life and what they want to do.”
The last time ASD20 asked for a mill levy override was back in 2008, and now the district hopes this initiative will let them align with other districts in the state.
“We know we have neighbors here in the Pikes Peak region, neighbors in Denver that their mill levy overrides are much larger than ours and they can pay their teachers much more than we can,” Cortez said. “So asking for a mill levy override, it’s really just going to keep us competitive with those other districts.”