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Counting CO School Children So Every Child Counts

Photo: Amendment 66 would change how students are counted in Colorado. Courtesy: Colorado Children's Campaign
Photo: Amendment 66 would change how students are counted in Colorado. Courtesy: Colorado Children's Campaign
September 24, 2013

DENVER - A week from today (October 1), Colorado public schools will be doing a careful count of enrolled pupils because that one day's number is what determines their funding for the school year.

The current system is costing school systems millions in public funding. Other states perform counts throughout the year, or take an average of attendance all year.

According to education advocates, such as Reilly Pharo, vice president of eduction initiatives for the Colorado Children's Campaign, Colorado's system is shortchanging schools and, more importantly, pupils.

"Our schools are trying to do incredible things, but at the same time, money is really important in the conversation," Pharo declared. "How we allocate the money for the year for each student, really comes off that one day."

Colorado's Amendment 66, which will appear on the November 5 ballot, will provide for funding for a new pupil counting system, as well as reduced class sizes and better teacher support. Opponents argue that the tax hike - 5 percent for people making up to $75,000 annually - is too tough on small businesses and families at a time when the economy is still recovering.

Dr. Pat Sanchez, the Superintendent for the Adams 14 School District, said that on average his district sees at least 150 new pupils enroll every year, after the October 1 count date. That costs the district more than a million dollars in public funding annually.

"What I say is, 'Welcome home. We're glad you're here. We're going to serve you. We're happy to work with you.' But it does put some stress on the classroom size," he said. "It does put some stress on teachers."

Reilly Pharo said that changing the pupil count system in Colorado is just one reason voters should vote "yes" on Amendment 66 on Election Day.

"I'm really excited about the legislation because it's all research-based, and it's a lot of these policy changes that research says will drive different outcomes for kids," she declared.

Amendment 66 represents the first time the state has rewritten education policy in 20 years. Pharo said that on average, states re-examine policies every 10 years.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - CO