6:52pm

Tue February 15, 2011
Education

Colorado Schools Brace for Deep Cuts

Colorado's public schools will likely bear the biggest brunt of the cuts if the Governor Hickenlooper's budget is approved by the legislature. Those cuts come at a time when many traditionally under-performing Colorado schools are starting to win praise for turning things around.

Public schools will likely bear the biggest brunt of the cuts if the Governor’s budget is approved by the legislature.  Those cuts come at a time when many traditionally under-performing Colorado schools are starting to win praise for turning things around.

Manual High School in northeast Denver was closed in 2006 because it had one of the poorest student-performance records in the state.  It reopened a year later and has since won accolades among school-reform advocates for reinventing itself…narrowing achievement gaps and slowly lowering dropout rates.

This May the school will graduate its first Seniors.

Manual has gotten used to the national attention.  And Tuesday the school got even more when the Obama Administration’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, stopped by the library to hold a forum about increasing access to financial aid for poor students. 

"If you work hard, those resources are going to be there," Duncan told the students.

Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools, was speaking about the Administration’s commitment to boosting federal funding for still struggling schools, as across town, Governor John Hickenlooper was announcing more than $375 million in state cuts for K-12.

Duncan summed it up this way.

"These are extraordinarily tough budget times, whether it’s Colorado, whether it’s California, whether it’s New York, whether it’s my home state of Illinois, everybody is struggling financially," he said.

Colorado was not among the winners in the Administration’s Race to the Top funding contest, something Duncan said he is – quote – heartbroken over, given the level of reforms happening in this state.  He said schools here will have to continue being creative with technology and do more with less.

"I have tremendous confidence in the leadership from the governor on down here in Colorado, that even in these tough budget times that reform and momentum will continue," he said.

But continuing the momentum at Manual will be tough, with the school now bracing for a $200,000 budget cut from the state – or about $500 per student.

"That’s going to mean some jobs, and it’s going to mean jobs across the board," said Manual's Principal Joe Sandoval.

Sandoval says he’s not sure how much more creative his school can be.  They’ll apply for class-size relief funds that Denver Public Schools is making available, but it won’t be enough, he says. 

"We’ll have to increase some class sizes, and not only that, but each of us who are administrators will have to take on more responsibility, we’ll just have to do more," Sandoval said. And doing more with less staff is something that could be the new norm for education.  It may now be up to the individual students at schools like this, to determine how they deal with the governor’s proposed cuts.