What will our legacy be for future generations of LPS families and students in 15, 25, 50 years?
Fifty years ago this community left a legacy that we are still living. But what do we need to do now to ensure that our students are prepared for the future?
As one of Colorado’s highest achieving school districts, Littleton Public Schools has long provided students with an outstanding education. And as the job-scape continues to change with technology pushing us forward, LPS is committed to ensuring that we are prepared to educate our students for tomorrow’s world - in an environment where our kids are engaged and passionate about what they are learning.
As we work together to answer these questions and shape our vision for the future of Littleton Public Schools, we must begin by addressing three critical components:
Our students deserve the best. Our community expects the best. And LPS is prepared to deliver. As part of our larger plan to ensure that LPS continues to offer the best possible education, the district adopted a new academic achievement goal in 2017. The new District Achievement Goal states: 100% of LPS students will graduate prepared for meaningful post-secondary opportunities. It is our objective to ensure that all LPS students leave our classrooms and enter the world as well-adjusted young adults, equipped with the tools they need to be successful in a 21st-century workplace.
Additionally, the LPS Board of Education outlined priority goals to help lead the district down this important road of planning for the future. Priority Board Goals include: planning for the effective use of resources; refining and expanding academically rigorous pathways; growing and improving safety, security and mental health processes and procedures; and providing effective professional development to ensure quality education and to recruit, retain and grow exceptional leaders, administrators, and staff.
As a changing job market demands more non-traditional skills - like creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurship - LPS is committed to creating the physical and intellectual space necessary for innovation. We need to think about school differently. The vision is to foster an environment where there is:
LPS is committed to offering additional relevant college/career pathways and preparing students for the changing expectations and rigor of college, as well as for the rapidly changing workforce.
In the fall of 2017 Dr. Bill Daggett - education leader, visionary, and provocateur - spent time with LPS leaders, staff and community members to help begin the process of imagining what the future in LPS could look like. He began the process by helping LPS to consider some introspective questions to help ensure that the vision is relevant and personally suited for this district. For our students. For our community.
Additionally, the Board of Education charged the Long-Range Planning Committee with reviewing the district physical plant, program capacity and major capital equipment requirements and determining what improvements to efficiency and sustainability and infrastructure needs may be required during the next five to ten years.
Because Littleton Public Schools has made a commitment to a new learning goal, 100% of LPS students will graduate prepared for meaningful post-secondary opportunities, we have to answer a few further questions:
LPS is very good at serving traditional learners. We need to find ways to better support the growing number of non-traditional learners as well, particularly in a landscape that increasingly demands a different skill set. Through research and conversation with our business partners, we can see a shift occurring. The top skills in demand for a job in 2015 are already quite different than those projected to be the top skills needed even just in 2020.
According to the Future Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum projects the Top 10 Skills for 2020 versus for 2015:
|In 2020||In 2015|
|Complex Problem Solving||Complex Problem Solving|
|Critical Thinking||Coordinating with Others|
|People Management||Critical Thinking|
|Coordinating with Others||Negotiation|
|Emotional Intelligence||Quality Control|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Service Orientation|
|Service Orientation||Judgement and Decision Making|
(Source: Top 10 skills - Future of Jobs report; World Economic Forum)
According to the Colorado Department of Education, the essential skills are:
There is a solution! But it’s complicated. LPS needs a number of major components - at both the state and local level - to come together. The Solution:
If passed, a statewide initiative would provide the ongoing money needed to support school districts in Colorado. There is simply no way to solve this funding crisis without a statewide ballot initiative. Under TABOR, the law requires that any tax increase must be approved by voters. Language for a statewide initiative is currently being written to be included on the November 2018 ballot.
If passed, the Superintendent’s New School Finance Formula (HB 18-1232) would ensure that dollars collected from the passage of a statewide initiative would be distributed appropriately to better meet the needs of our schools and our communities - moving the state towards adequacy and equity for K-12 funding. Colorado superintendents came together to support HB 18-1232 as a response to the challenges created by the current school finance model. Based on student needs, the new formula would better serve all students, particularly those who are currently underserved and those who face the greatest challenges finishing high school prepared for college or a career.
As a result, LPS would secure an additional $20.2 million annually.
Finally, if passed, a local bond would provide LPS with the funding needed to complete much-needed capital improvements. Aging facilities are challenging. LPS schools are on average at least 55 years old and are reaching their end of life. Schools of this age were not designed for today's or tomorrow's education. They lack the appropriate space for creativity, collaboration, and exploration. They lack the appropriate space to serve students with special needs and are not ADA compliant. Passage of a local bond would be an investment in improved physical space for learning, benefitting the district and the community for decades to come. This money would be used for critical projects such as:
The LPS Dilemma
The vision for LPS is a bright one, but there is no doubt that we are facing a multi-faceted dilemma:
Passed more than two decades ago, the current school finance act - formally the Public School Finance Act of 1994 - no longer serves the needs of Colorado students. In 2000, Amendment 23 - a citizen’s ballot initiative - was passed, mandating that “base” per-pupil funding increase each year by the rate of inflation. But in 2009, the state legislature reinterpreted Amendment 23, creating the Negative Factor; which immediately began stripping school districts of critical funding and shortchanging an entire generation of LPS students of the education they deserve. (Read more about the Negative Factor) While Littleton Public Schools is fortunate to have overwhelming community support - passing every bond and mill-levy override ever brought to an election - it has still not been enough to combat the sizable deficit caused by the Negative Factor. A look at reductions since 2010:
The annual Negative Factor reductions:
|Statewide reductions to K-12 education
2010: $130 million
2011: $381 million
2012: $774 million
2013: $1.01 billion
2014: $1 billion
2015: $894 million
2016: $831 million
2017: $831 million
Total: Over $5.8 billion
|Consequent state-funding cuts to Littleton Public Schools:
This lack of funding has serious implications, causing things like teacher salaries, special education, mental health services and school facilities to suffer greatly. For example, Colorado teacher salaries are well below the national average, leading to higher student-to-teacher ratios and overcrowding of classrooms. Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding and 50th in the nation in teacher salary competitiveness. Colorado funding is way below the national average.
Shall state taxes be increased $1,600,000,000 annually by an amendment to the Colorado constitution and a change to the Colorado revised statutes concerning funding relating to preschool through high school public education, and, in connection therewith, creating an exception to the single rate state income tax for revenue that is dedicated to the funding of public schools; increasing income tax rates incrementally for individuals, trusts, and estates using four tax brackets starting at .37% for income above $150,000 and increasing to 3.62% for income above $500,000; increasing the corporate income tax rate by 1.37%; for purposes of school district property taxes, reducing the current residential assessment rate of 7.2% to 7.0% and the current nonresidential assessment rate of 29%to 24%; requiring the revenue from the income tax increases to be deposited in a dedicated public education fund and allowing the revenue collected to be retained and spent as voter-approved revenue changes; requiring the legislature to annually appropriate money from the fund to school districts to support early childhood through high school public educational programs on an equitable basis throughout the state without decreasing general fund appropriations; directing the legislature to enact, regularly review, and revise when necessary, a new public school finance law that meets specified criteria; until the legislature has enacted a new public school finance law, requiring the money in the fund to be annually appropriated for specified education programs and purposes; requiring the money in the fund to be used to support only public schools; requiring general fund appropriations for public education to increase by inflation, up to 5%, annually; and requiring the department of education to commission a study of the use of the money in the fund within five years?