After a two year process, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) signed a new comprehensive school finance bill on Tuesday, putting Colorado schools one step closer to necessary reform, particularly to their funding.
You may be wondering why this process has taken so long. State Senator Mike Johnson (D), a former teacher and principal in Colorado, drafted a policy paper and legislation after holding 100 public events that reached over 2,000 stakeholders over the past two years.
The outcome of Johnston’s process is a bill that tries to address inequity in the funding of the Centennial State’s schools. As a state, Colorado currently spends $2,518 per pupil which is significantly less than the national average, ranking them 42 out of 51 states. The funding is also unequally distributed across school districts.
In order to address the inadequacy and inequality, the Senator proposed a two step solution:
1: Reform the school finance formula with legislation in the Colorado House and Senate.
2: Raise the revenue to support the changes with a ballot initiative November 2013.
The newly enacted school finance law changes the state’s funding formula so that schools are funded by a per pupil average of students attending throughout the school year rather than the current per pupil count on October 1 – this will help to account for transience. The law also increases funding for schools with higher populations of English language learners (ELL) and at-risk students. Most exciting to us at TSC, the new law includes an innovation grant that would incentivize schools to implement ELT.
Now, though, it is a waiting game. Although the bill has been passed in both the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor, the next and final step requires Colorado citizens to vote for a tax increase in November in order to fund the reforms laid out in the new law. The law is a bold statement by Colorado policymakers – but for the moment, it’s unfunded without the voters declaring their support as well.
We will be watching the discussion, and we will keep you informed!