Does Colorado Have to Cut Education? The Answer Is No

03/29/2011 12:40 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2011

Gov. John Hickenlooper's budget-balancing plan relies heavily on reducing funding to public schools. His cuts will result in the loss of over 3600 jobs; most of the eliminated positions will be school educators. I wonder like everyone else: what the heck is going on? Is this really necessary? I investigated the issue and the answer is: NO.

Now, you're probably asking yourself: Well who is to blame? Off with their heads!!!

However, we mustn't be too quick to judge, or we are liable to find our own heads in a basket, eyes staring aimlessly skyward, mouths agape, and gasping for air. Yeah that's right: We caused this you, I, and the Hick. I went out drinking with him, so I know his issues.

Who the hell am I? Well, as far as my social status goes, I'm several tiers below the average Joe. I'm an ex-con, overweight, single, middle-aged man, who enjoys strip clubs, unhealthy foods, reading, writing and politics. I'm like Al Bundy or Family Guy gone awry. Not the type of guy you would think would have a foothold on influencing policy. But I do.

And I say this not to toot my own horn, but just to say, more people need to get off of their sofas, turn off that idiot-box and get involved. Listen folks: 3,600 school district jobs, making an average of $56,000 a year, will be eliminated in Colorado in the near future. If that isn't worth getting out of your seats -- you're already dead where you sit. And your children are too!

Wisconsin's lawmakers, at least they got some chutzpah. In the not too distant future, Colorado's going to have to build four towers and a prison fence around the State, because the Colorado Department of Corrections will be the only thriving business; especially if we continue to let our State education system decline.

We've got Denver city officials with an average pay of $73,000 giving themselves a cost of living raise of 6.6 percent, while our kids get the short end of the stick.

The most significant and dramatic cuts in Hickenlooper's budget are in the area of K-12 education. The governor proposed an astounding reduction in program funding for public schools of $375 million.

So, where do we get the money to fund education?

There are only two ways: we need to find other areas of State government where we have excessive or wasteful spending and eliminate those expenditures. Then we could shift those savings back into education. And the second way is to increase revenue.

I have a background in corrections, one might josh. Nevertheless, I recognized major areas of wasteful spending in this department and have been addressing it with my State representatives and senators.

For example, our lawmakers could repeal the current mandatory parole law that governs state prisoners, which requires a period of parole in addition to an offender's sentence, to one of normal parole, which constitutes an early release within the confines of the sentence. This, alone; without jeopardizing public safety, would save Colorado $75 million. Colorado has over 9000 state prisoners past their parole eligibility dates.

Another area of wasteful spending in the Colorado Department of Corrections is that we hold our illegal immigrant prisoners longer than necessary. Let's deport the illegals earmarked for deportation the very first day they reach their parole eligibility date. To hold them longer at $30,000 a year per inmate defies logic. Every 40 prisoners held another year longer equates to $1.2 million that could go toward schools. Other states are deporting their illegal immigrant prisoners as soon as possible; Colorado needs to get on par.

And this is just what I can think of in corrections: Imagine what cost-saving idea others might be able to produce?

Concerning revenue, the State should shift to a graduated tax program -- a system where those who make the most money carry the greatest burden; since they can well afford it. Such a system if implemented could raise a painless extra $1 billion for Colorado, while giving the working poor more disposable cash. We could also impose a tax earmarked for education.

We have approx. 4.3 million people in Colorado, two million are adults over the age of 18, and if each adult was taxed $200 a year (that's about a $1.40 a day)... we'd have our $400 million for education. For those folks not willing to give a $1.40 a day to keep our education system afloat, then my advice to them is: start building that fence I talked about earlier -- because they are imprisoned already.

Right now the consequences of doing nothing are dire for our children's future; it is unbelievable that more folks aren't up in arms. When we live in a society where more people know what is going on in Charlie Sheen's life than their local government, we have a serious problem.

Tomorrow, rise up out of your chair, turn off that television: the Hick wants to buy you a beer and hear your ideas. If he doesn't: off with his head!

Michael J. McCarthy lives in Denver. He is a member of the Colorado Press Association and the Denver Press Club. Michael is presently working with several senators and representatives on prison reform bills. Contact at: