DENVER - Standing in front of the historic West High School, Denver School Board member Anne Rowe urged voters to raise their own property taxes to repair old, broken down buildings.
"These schools don't have air conditioning and they get really, really hot," Rowe said.
She joined the launch of a campaign to get Denver voters to approve a $572 million bond issue for building needs and another $56.7 million to increase the Denver Public Schools operating budget.
"Denver Public Schools are underfunded," Patricia Slaughter, retired DPS administrator, said. "This is a fact and reality that we must acknowledge and accept."
DPS is far from alone. Neighboring districts like Jefferson County and Aurora are turning to voters, as well. JeffCo wants a $535 million bond issue. Aurora is asking for $300 million. Altogether, these three school districts alone are asking voters for more than $1.4 billion which totals more than the national budgets of 45 small countries.
"In a high growth state, you have more demand on schools," Dr. Norm Provizer, Metropolitan State University of Denver political science professor, said.
Provizer the tremendous population growth and low interest rates are big factors into why districts are seeking such big bond issues.
"If in fact, you have growing lists of maintenance projects, a growing list of things produced by growth, demand on schools and education, this is the perfect time to do bonds," Provizer said.
He says construction costs have gone up while state funding has gone down.
"You have a problem of the state cutting back in its funding, demand growing, there's only one way to deal with that," Provizer said.
But, Provizer says a lot of people, especially those without kids in schools, are opposed to paying higher property taxes.
"There's also a constant argument -- are we just throwing money at a problem, not solving it?" Provizer said.
Denver voters have approved bond issues and mill levy overrides time and again. Rowe says she believes the support is still strong.
"The well is very full because people see the opportunity and they actually see the progress and the impact that Denver Public Schools has on providing access for all kids to a high quality education," Rowe said.
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