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Busses rally in protest of budget cuts

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Fifty-one buses from Falcon District 49 in El Paso County drove north to the state Capitol today in an effort to send a message to state legislators about education cuts.

Buses came adorned with messages on windows that read “no cuts” and “fund our future” in response to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed $332 million budget cuts to K-12 education this year.

“These buses represent kids and they represent jobs,” said Dave Martin , president of the District 49 school board, who organized and led the bus rally. “I want us to start making our kids first and making them a priority. I understand cuts have to be made, but let’s not make the kids suffer.”

Martin said the district raised $6,000 yesterday in order to offset costs of the trip.

(Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Sen. John Morse , D-Colorado Springs, met Martin on the west steps of the Capitol where the school board president handed the senator 84 keys as a symbol of all the district’s buses.

In preparation for its reduced funding, the district voted to slash bus services to students for the 2011-12 school year. As a result, the drivers who made today’s trip will be losing their jobs.

“Many of the people behind the wheel of these buses will soon be unemployed,” Martin said, pointing toward the line of vehicles as they drove north on Broadway past the Capitol.

Martin said he wants Morse to hold on to the keys as a reminder of the students and jobs that the district will lose if these budget cuts continue to happen.

He went on to say that representatives of a neighboring school district tried to convince him not to send buses to the state Capitol, as it would make El Paso county schools a target for deeper cuts.

“This is a pointed visual message of what these cuts mean to people,” said Morse. “Since this proposal to make cuts was made back on Feb. 15, I’ve been committed to cutting the governor’s figure by $100 million.”

Students were not present at the rally; the district is on spring break this week.

 By Kurtis Lee

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