District 51 School Board President John Williams speaks to a crowd gathered to celebrate the passage of  school-funding ballot measures.

(Nancy Lofholm/CPR News)

Deafening cheers were followed by tears of joy as supporters of two school-funding measures celebrated in Mesa County Tuesday. District 51 voters hadn't approved new funding for schools since 2004. But this time around, they passed a $6.5 million mill levy override and a $118.5 million bond issue. The measures garnered about 55 percent of the vote.

District 51 School Board President John Williams told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner the vote sends a message that Mesa County has turned a corner and is looking to a future with an increased focus on education.  Opponents argued that the school district is top-heavy and doesn't spend wisely, and that the new money wouldn't benefit students directly.

The funds will be used to replace a crumbling, nearly 60-year-old middle school, add new gyms at two schools, increase technology throughout the district's 44 schools, upgrade heating and air-conditioning systems, buy new instructional materials and pay for teacher training. The measures will also make it possible for District 51 students to attend school five more days per year.