The Colorado Education Association, Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado Association of School Boards are each taking a support position on Senate Bill 213, this year’s extensive re-write of Colorado’s Public School Finance Act of 1994.
A broad-based coalition has been working for two years to redesign how schools are funded. This effort is widely anticipated to culminate in a ballot measure that will provide needed resources to schools and students across Colorado. The proposed overhaul comes on the heels of $1.1 billion in budget cuts to public education over the past four years.
“CASE, CASB and CEA have all worked in collaboration with our lawmakers to define a connection between what schools are expected to do, and how they’re funded,” said Bruce Caughey, executive director of CASE. “While this measure does not get us all the way to adequacy, it absolutely has us headed in the right direction.
“This revision of the finance act will set the stage for across-the-board investments in schools across Colorado with specific resources targeted toward closing achievement gaps among diverse student populations,” Caughey added.
The bill calls for more education investments targeted to critical areas of need, such as preschool programs for at-risk children, full-day kindergarten for all students, and more support for special education students and English language learners.
“This bill is game-changing legislation that we need to fix Colorado’s gaping holes in education funding,” said CEA President Kerrie Dallman. “For too long, we’ve seen class sizes increase for students, fees increase for parents and demands increase for educators as we’ve chopped away at teaching and staff positions, support services and course offerings. This new finance act is a badly-need course correction.”
Dallman also observed the Legislature’s work on school finance system has greater urgency now, as recent legislation has brought forth new state academic standards, educator evaluations, state assessments and literacy programs for students in kindergarten through third grade.
“Education in Colorado has been through a seismic upheaval of reform during the same time we’ve been cutting budgets, and we know reforms will fail to meet student needs without proper funding,” Dallman said. “For many years, state education laws have passed with little regard for the resources that make them meaningful for student growth and achievement. We’re pleased this bill begins to bridge the funding gaps for the laws passed in recent legislative sessions.”
It’s a critical time for education in Colorado, notes CASB Executive Director Ken DeLay, as the legislature wraps up its work on the new school finance system and the November ballot question asking voters to approve a tax increase to inject $1 billion in new revenues into public schools.
“CASB supports recent statewide efforts targeted to improve student growth and achievement and help ensure we have great teachers in our classrooms, but in order to deliver on those initiatives, we need more money in our districts,” DeLay said. “While not perfect, SB 213 is the only chance we’re likely to have in the next several years to bring significant new dollars to school finance.
“There’s still a lot of work to do among the education community and we look forward to a successful campaign this fall,” DeLay concluded.
The new school finance act will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year if the statewide ballot measure is supported by voters this November.