On Thursday, Jonna represented SJK at the Capitol on yet another voucher bill. Following is her testimony. Be alert on legislation, categories of students are being used to argue for vouchers.
Following is her testimony.
Thank you Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Jonna Levine, I am co-chair/co-founder of Support Jeffco Kids. Our focus is on the importance of supporting public education for ALL 86,000 plus kids in Jeffco, the 2nd largest school district in the state.
We oppose House Bill 1151.
We hold, as a basic principle, that public, taxpayer dollars for public education must stay in public schools; and that our students who choose public schools be funded adequately and equitably, with sustainable funds – a goal our state has yet to accomplish.
Therefore, we oppose any changes to public school funding in Colorado that would use public, taxpayer dollars for vouchers, tax credits, Education Savings Accounts, or any other tool used for privatizing public education, such as this Opportunity Scholarship Program.
HB1151, in establishing this “Opportunity Scholarship Program” to pay for tuition in non-public schools is, in fact, a back door voucher.
Unfortunately, it is a huge misconception that our school districts get a great deal of funding for Special Ed students. According to a JBC Ed Briefing Report from CDE, dated Aug. 2017: Federal and State Categorical Funding for Special Ed students provides only 38% of Special Ed Costs. The state share is really just barely at 20%. Districts are actually spending significantly more dollars than they receive for providing these services. To think taking that small amount of money to another institution will buy more than the current services seems unrealistic, and does not truly address the root cause school districts are facing – which is a lack of funding.
We have worked and advocated tirelessly for increased public school funding so that schools can provide the necessary programs, specialists and staff, and training to meet students needs. Funding desperately needed, especially when districts carry the extra burden of providing services like Special Ed, where they are responsible for 62% of the costs; or 79.5% of ELL costs because the Federal and State funding combined covers only 20%; or 69% of GT costs, where there is no Federal funding, and the State provides only 31%.
Considering the Budget Stabilization factor sits at $672 million – dollars owed to our public schools – the last thing we should be doing is finding ways to redirect dollars away from our public schools.
I’d also like to point out, singling out or segregating a population of students and giving the impression that K-12 isn’t an inclusive community is disingenuous and disrespectful.
This is Colorado, the land of TABOR, afterall. Surplus dollars in the General Fund are an anomaly, limited, and, as in this year, there are always competing priorities for those dollars.
As elected officials, you are the stewards of our taxpayer dollars. It’s your responsibility to protect and fund our public entities and infrastructure such as K-12 public education – first.
We ask that you continue in your support for public K-12 education and vote NO on House Bill 1151.