Needs and Wants

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When I taught first grade, every year we focused on the principle of “needs vs wants.” My first graders learned that food is a need, and a skateboard is a want. Food keeps us alive. A skateboard is fun and builds physical health and balance, but it’s still a “want.”


If there was ever a time for the adults to have a “needs vs. wants” discussion, it is now. Douglas County’s schools are facing large budget reductions, as is every district in our state and around the country. In Colorado, the shortage hits especially hard. Colorado has underfunded education since the recession of 2008, and currently owes districts almost $600 million dollars (the Budget Stabilization factor).


There are never easy cuts to a school district’s budget and we have never experienced the level of reductions we are facing now; therefore, we must prioritize the core mission of our school district—educating children. That is the district’s “need.” And the vast majority of that need happens in the classroom. As cuts to the budget are made, the needs of the students and classroom must be protected.


Protecting the needs in the classroom starts and ends with ensuring there is an effective teacher. As research has repeatedly shown, the single most important school-based factor in student success is having a quality teacher in the classroom.


The reason schools spend most of their budgets on teachers is simple—they make the most impact.


Douglas County School District created a strategic plan to help guide many of its decisions. Theme 6 addresses the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers and staff (I still don’t understand why the most powerful school factor in student success was sixth). But the strategic plan did not contemplate a world-wide pandemic and historic cuts to funding. As has been said so many times, “we are in a new world.” This new world demands that schools focus on the difference between needs and wants. 


If they want some help, a few first-graders can help.


Kallie Leyba

President, Douglas County Federation