Lisa LaBriola

Education is one of the strongest investments a society can make. Data shows that with educational attainment comes a host of beneficial personal and societal contributions. Gains abound — from a more desirable labor market, to higher earnings (which lead to a lower need for government assistance), to an increase in social mobility and a decrease in poverty, to higher salaries and more career opportunities. Seems like an easy choice, right?

In Colorado, our constitution mandates that K-12 education should be funded by population plus inflation. During the Great Recession in 2008, the legislature reallocated dollars to stabilize an economy that needed it. However, in those financially challenging times, the debt to our public school system ballooned to more than $10 billion dollars. Though these numbers are clear as day and our state legislators work every year on closing the gap in our state budget, we regularly encounter that our public education systems are “bloated” and “failing” with claims that “more money won’t solve the problem."

Also read: COUNTERPOINT | Don't invest further in flawed education system

So where is this challenge coming from? It is coming from our education system being politically hijacked and used as a pawn for elections rather than folks coming together to offer solutions.

Colorado is still working on catching up to its funding formula that was impacted back in 2006. How can a system that is underfunded be expected to operate at optimal levels when we haven’t invested in it for 16 years? How can both sides agree to a workable funding arrangement but fall into the same old arguments to try to ignore the obvious gaps?

Having a difference in opinion regarding the role and operational goals of a school system should not allow dollars to be withheld because the two sides disagree. The cuts to the funding formula that were accepted in 2006 are now constantly being pushed aside in the name supporting your political “side”. How about we meet our constitutional funding requirements before we move to the arguments on if our system is working. Maybe after funding our schools appropriately we can have policy discussions on the system as a whole. In the meantime, let’s stop holding the education system hostage.

Lisa LaBriola is a principal at Husch Blackwell Strategies and was a Senate Democrat staffer for close to a decade. She served as chief of staff to former Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and former Senate President Leroy Garcia. Opinions expressed here are her own and do not reflect the opinions of any other organizations.

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