As Colorado lawmakers consider an overhaul of the way the state funds K-12 education, more people are noticing that schools are increasingly forced to pay for the past rather than to invest in the future.
Our public schools must take money out of the classroom in order to pay for investment losses and unaffordable promises that have created a $25 billion shortfall in the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).
In August 2012, Adams 12 School District teachers protested a 2 percent salary reduction enacted explicitly to offset the rising cost of PERA’s bailout plan. For 2012-13, Adams 12 will pay $190 million in salaries, plus $36 million for PERA and Medicaid.
In 2010-11, Colorado Springs School District 11 paid $21 million to PERA, according to the Colorado Springs Independent. Those payments, combined with funding reductions by the state legislature, led the district to close schools and make cuts that affected everything from textbooks to class size to suspending pay increases.
District 11 CFO Glenn Gustafson told the Independent: “To improve student achievement, it’s more important than ever to attract qualified and talented teachers. But we’re shifting a disproportionate amount of compensation to retirement benefits and health care.”
For 2011-12, my hometown Burlington School District RE-6J, with just 738 pupils, faced a $300,000 budget deficit – half of that amount caused by the cost of PERA’s bailout. For 2012-13, the district decreased salaries by $54,399 but the mandatory PERA contribution increased by $38,594. (more…)