A thriving economy starts with supporting our schools

Thriving Economy

If not now, when?

That’s the question that brought together a coalition of business owners, teachers, parents, and voters to form Citizens for School District 51, the grassroots organization behind the campaign to pass the bond and mill levy this November.

This campaign began more than a year ago — in the spring of 2016 to be exact. Since that time members of the school board have been working with district faculty and staff, community members — with and without children — business leaders and others through workshops and meetings to identify priority items needed to improve both the quality of place and quality of education for our students.

In fact, school board members visited each and every school twice in order to develop those lists with staff and teacher feedback and input. Suffice it to say the initial project lists were huge. School board members then had the unenviable task of taking that list and whittling it down to the most basic needs taking into consideration what our community could realistically afford. What we have in front of us now is an affordable, detailed, transparent, and impactful plan that will cost the average homeowner less than $10 per month.

We are rapidly gaining support from every corner of the Grand Valley. Collectively we know K-12 schools are the bedrock of a sustainable economy. Neighborhood schools are an economic development tool that lures businesses, employees, and a stronger taxpayer base, all of which contribute to a healthy and stable economy. To quote from an economic impact analysis of construction and operation of schools conducted for Montrose County, “[the] project will add value to the community in ways that extend beyond the economic activity associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of the facility; it will increase community pride and cohesion; it will increase property values; it will spark greater creativity and innovation, it will increase the ease of addressing security challenges; it will better utilize current technologies; it will increase efficiency and safety; it will better meet the needs of students.” This begs the question, if not now, when?

Our community is at a precipice. Failing cities have one thing in common: neglected and underfunded schools. Despite the massive cuts we’ve faced, we haven’t voted to invest in our schools since President George W. Bush was in his first term. 

It is long past time we took control of our future. No one is going to come in at the last minute and save our students and our economy. In fact, at the state level and as a result of the Negative Factor, our school district’s funding has been cut by nearly $150 million since 2010 and is facing another $20 million in cuts next year. Marijuana tax money only covers $40 million per year across the entire state; clearly that isn’t the silver bullet.

If we want a thriving, stable economy, it’s up to us. It starts with investing in our kids.

Funding this measure isn’t just about the extreme level of repairs needed by a district that has faced $40 million in local cuts over eight years. It’s about proving to ourselves that we can be the kind of community that creates its own destiny. It is about being a community that stands up for itself, places pride in our place and shows our children they are a worthy investment.

Let’s get our fire alarms up to code. Let’s replace the dilapidated Orchard Mesa Middle School. Let’s put more days on the academic calendar. Let’s build a gym in the only school that doesn’t have one. Let’s invest in the safety and security of our most valuable asset — our kids.

It’s time to stop waiting for someone to come and save us. It’s time to stop waiting for someone else’s fresh eyes to resolve our troubling situation. It’s time to take a real look at what we want our future to look like. It’s time to understand that if we want our economic fortune to change, we need to come together for our schools, our kids, and our community.

The future is ours to shape. It is up to all of us. It starts with kids. Join me, and the other community members who know the value of education and the role it plays in the future of our community.

This November vote YES!

Kelly Flenniken is the area manager for Xcel Energy. Previously Kelly served as the executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) and is the immediate past chair of the Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC). But, most importantly, Kelly is the proud mother of two young girls about to enter D51 schools.