Apr 1, 2011 12:36 AM by Matt Stafford

D-49 busing to the Capitol, fighting budget cuts

State lawmakers continue to wrestle with ways to balance the budget. They're coming up about a half a billion dollars short. One area facing big cuts is education.

Falcon District 49 is among many districts looking at hard choices. Thursday they wanted to visually show the legislators just what those cuts look like. Big yellow school buses said it all.

"I think all of us are just bracing for the worst when it comes to the budget situation," says Stephanie Meredith, communications director for D-49.

D- 49 could lose between seven and nine million dollars as state legislators try to balance the budget.

"Every dollar that they takeaway from education funding is taking away from our student," says Meredith.

However, it's a time for tough choices. D-49 already voted to eliminate most of their bus service next year. They took those buses, dozens of them, to the capitol to try and convince legislators to salvage education funding. They were able to use the buses because the kids are on Spring Break.

"I'd like to present you the keys to 84 buses that falcon school district will be parking," D-49 School Board President Dave Martin said to Sen. John Morse from Colorado Springs at the Capitol. District personnel were driven by bus drivers that will likely lose their jobs with D-49 next year.

The group got attention and a lot of talk too. Many people wanted to know how the district is paying for the trip when on a strapped budget; but the district says it was all paid for through private donations.

"We think that thy 7,000 dollars raised from donors should completely cover that cost," Meredith explains.

Once Sen. Morse had his 84 keys, he said it's something he can use to remind legislators exactly what they're cutting. Governor Hickenlooper suggested cutting 332 million from K through 12 education, but Morse wants to bring that number down by about 100 million

"We're hoping to get that number down to 232." says Sen. Morse, but he says that's going to be hard to do.

At D-49 -- just like with their busing -- they've been looking to trim, but it's getting tough to find places to cut.

"There's not much more to go, we're trying to keep it away from the classroom, unfortunately it looks like we're going to be there," Martin says.

No exact figure has been given on the cost of the trip, but they say the only expenses were the bus drivers and the gas. Drivers will be paid their hourly rate, but board members say they offered to take a pay cut to get their message to Denver. That's if donations don't cover the costs, which they think they will.



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