Funding Colorado’s groundbreaking School Finance Act is the next hurdle for the reform plan, 19 years in the making. State Senator Mike Johnston, one of the major proponents of the legislation signed in May, is traveling the state to encourage citizens to vote “yes” this fall on the ballot measure that would authorize funding for the education overhaul. He is in Hugo today, speaking to educators and community members.
Johnston explained that the Act is important.
“This puts Colorado squarely at the head of the class as the most ambitious state in the country to take on real school finance overhaul,” he declared. “We’re delighted at the fact that we’ve accomplished the most aggressive and far- reaching overhaul to school finance, and it prepares all kids to be successful. ”
To fund changes detailed in the plan, $900 million is needed. Some of that will come from a reallocation of funding, but a personal income tax increase is also needed. Under Johnston’s plan, a Colorado family would pay, on average, an additional $250 a year.
Some of the changes brought about by the School Finance Act include offering early childhood education to families who qualify and full-day kindergarten to all Colorado families who choose it. It will also ensure all pupils have the resources to succeed, whether gifted or in need of special education.
According to Reilly Pharo with the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the reform plan is unique, compared to others, because it ensures that the state is paying for students’ needs, regardless of where they live or what their needs are.
“We wanted really to focus the conversation on having the first outcomes-focused formula in the country and really are saying we want to be smart and know that the dollars are going to drive change.”
The plan also creates a first-in-the-nation website to allow taxpayers to track every dollar spent on education and make spending comparisons across schools and districts.
Currently, Colorado spends $2500 less per year per student than the average state. When the School Finance Act is funded, Colorado will still be spending $1500 less than the average state.