Does Your Legislator Represent YOU?

Yesterday and several other times, we asked you to write our legislators opposing SB61. Though the bill was not good for all children, the language was even added to the School Finance Act. Thanks to all of you who advocated against this. Yesterday, a “compromise bill” was released, HB1375, which is really just the same as SB61. SB61 was removed from the SFA and passed but then our legislators passed a voice vote on HB1375. Here’s a little about that bill – https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2017A/bills/2017A_1375_01.pdf

“CONCERNING MEASURES TO INCREASE TRANSPARENT EQUITY IN101 EDUCATING STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND, IN CONNECTION102 THEREWITH, REQUIRING SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO  DISTRIBUTE103 MILL LEVY REVENUE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS,104 CREATING A FUND TO PROVIDE EQUALIZING MONEY TO105 INSTITUTE CHARTER SCHOOLS, AND REQUIRING SCHOOL106 DISTRICTS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS TO POST A LIST OF107 STATUTORY WAIVERS RECEIVED.”

“Beginning in the 2019-20 budget year, the bill requires school districts that collect revenue from mill levies in addition to the total program mill levy and that authorize an innovation school or a charter school to:

  • ! adopt a plan for distributing the revenue to the schools of the school district for the benefit of the students enrolled in the school district; or
  • ! distribute 95% of the per pupil amount of the revenue to the innovation schools and charter schools of the school district (per pupil distribution).

The bill specifies the requirements for the plan and requirements that apply if the school district makes a per pupil distribution. In adopting a plan or making a per pupil distribution, the school district may distribute a portion of the revenue specifically for specified underserved populations.

If a school district is distributing a portion of the mill levy revenue to the charter schools or innovation schools of the school district during the 2016-17 budget year, it must maintain the same distribution amount for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 budget years.

By July 1, 2018, each school district that chooses to adopt a plan must post the plan on the school district’s website. If the school district chooses to distribute 95% of the per pupil amount, the school district must post a notice of such intent by July 1, 2018, and, starting July 1, 2019, must post the amount received in revenue, the amount distributed for underserved populations, and the amount distributed to each charter school and each innovation school.

Commencing July 1, 2018, the charter school institute and each school district, board of cooperative services, and charter school must post on its website a link to certain federal tax forms and schedules filed by the institute, school district, board of cooperative services, or charter school.

Commencing July 1, 2017, each school district and each charter school must post a list of the waivers of state statute that it has received and, for each nonautomatic waiver, the plan for meeting the intent of the statute. The department of education, the state charter school institute, and a statewide association of charter schools must create a standardized description of each of the statutes for which the state board of education grants an automatic waiver and the rationale for granting the automatic waiver. Starting July 1, 2018, each charter school must post the description and rationale for each of the automatic waivers it is invoking.

The bill creates the mill levy equalization fund, consisting of such money as the general assembly may appropriate to it, to provide additional funding for institute charter schools.”

So, regardless of the intention of voters when they passed their mill levy or bond initiatives, school districts just have to pass along an “equal” amount of funding to charter school students. Sounds okay, and Jeffco has always shared a portion of mill levy and bond monies, even when we didn’t know how those schools would use their monies.

Ultimately, without increased dollars, what ends up happening is that money is taken away from one child to give more to another. The vast majority of charter school students are not ELL, FRL, SPED, or rural. Those are the students who require more dollars to educate, that’s a simple fact. You can never put a price tag on the education of a student as they are all different. Special services cost extra – social workers, speech therapists, audiologists, physical therapists, ELL teachers, interventionists, etc. My child doesn’t need those services and chances are, yours don’t either.

Should those children receive the services or should we just say “no” because we want all kids to be equal? Of course we don’t say no, our duty is to provide an EQUITABLE education to all students, regardless of the challenges they arrive to school with.

Picture a beautiful cherry pie (in Colorado it would be a really small pie) and a house full of 8 children. Each one wants and should receive a piece of the pie. Now let’s say that 3 more children show up at your house and also want their piece of pie. Instead of everyone putting their piece of pie back into the pan and cutting it into 11 slices, you have to take pieces of the slice  from other children. You might take 1/3 of a slice from one and 2/3 from another to attempt to give everyone their very tiny bite of pie. It’s messy and there’s no true equal.

So to top off the messy issues, we also have an issue that we’d like to share with you below. A mom in Jeffco approached a charter school (which is a public school, despite what was written to her below), funded with public tax dollars for Kindergarten enrollment. Yes, the child has MILD autism. Yet, this child was counseled out of enrolling and denied entry. That’s technically not even legal. It’s a lottery (or supposed to be) and ANY child is supposed to be allowed into these schools, funded by public tax dollars. So why did this happen? Until transparency and accountability are equal to other neighborhood schools, and waivers from state mandates (so many unfunded) are ended, there’s no such thing as equal. It’s just messy and it doesn’t serve our neediest children well.

Here’s the text with student and parent names omitted:

Hi X

I apologize that it has taken me a while to get back to you. It has been an extremely busy time at school, as you well know.  I have read X’s IEP and have some recommendations for you. One question I have for you is this: did Children’s do any type of cognitive assessment when X was evaluated? The cognitive evaluation can give us an indication as to how much he might struggle with our curriculum.

The curriculum at Woodrow is a Core Knowledge curriculum, which teaches the Colorado State Standards, and then beyond those standards. We teach our students at a fast pace, and although we do give our students individual attention, most of our instruction is whole group instruction. We also do not modify our curriculum; we might accommodate students to help them achieve success, but everyone is held to the same objectives in all of our subjects. This is part of what makes us different than a public school and thus makes us a personal choice for parents. Our Special Ed. team fits into our curriculum by helping kids with the classroom curriculum, but we really want to keep the kids going with what is being taught in the classroom. Our team is also very small. I am part-time, as is our Occupational Therapist, social worker, and speech language teacher. We currently have 30 students that are on IEP’s at our school. A public school will have more students on an IEP than we do, but they will also have more Sp. Ed. staff to help those students.

It is difficult to look at X’s pre-school IEP and predict how he would do here at Woodrow or how much time he would need in Special Education. However, based on the fact that we have fewer specialists and cannot provide as much time as a regular public school can, I don’t feel that we can provide X the support he would need to be successful here at Woodrow. We have highly qualified teachers in our elementary school, but they do not necessarily have the training in mild autism that your area school teachers might have. Your area school will also have more flexibility with how they modify and accommodate.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to discuss X’s IEP with you and provide you any additional information. I am here Mon.-Thurs. from 8 to 3. Thank you so much.

 

And that’s why we oppose HB1375. Clearly, with this surprise, last minute piece of legislation that’s a repackaged SB61 with a new name, (that we’ve all opposed multiple times in the past several years) our legislators don’t intend to listen to their constituents. That’s a very disappointing issue for those of us who support ALL kids and public schools. Not just a few. Not just one group. Colorado has more than 900,000 children in schools and the needs in all 178 districts are all unique on top of unique needs of individual students.

It is not as if charter school students don’t need and deserve more funding. To be honest, they do, but ALL students need more funding! That’s what our legislators should be working on, collectively.

Colorado adds between 8,000 and 10,000 new students every year.

Colorado is responsible for educating approximately 900,000 students every year in 178 school districts and the Charter School Institute.

Between 30% – 40% of our students require additional services.

Colorado funds our students based on historical funding or what is available.

Funding is not based upon what is needed for all students to reach the graduation goals established by the state.

Colorado funds our students over $2,600 below the national average.

Colorado spending facts:

  • $2,685 per pupil below the national average.
  • Colorado ranks 41st in per pupil spending.

Colorado’s funding for students with special needs is not based on any quantifiable analysis of student need. It is based only on historical funding or what is available. That’s less available with HB1375 because this “counseling out” practice happens.

Funding facts for students requiring additional services:

  • Funding for students in special education covers only about 30% of the costs.
  • Funding for students learning English covers less than 30% of the costs.
  • Funding for Gifted and Talented students provides only enough to cover the costs for GT assessments.

In 2010-2011, the legislature created the “Negative Factor” due to the budget challenges Colorado faced.

  • In 2017-2018, the Negative Factor is projected to be about $828.3M+.
  • The Negative Factor reduces funding to districts and students, forcing cuts and reducing options for students.
  • Currently, the state has no plan to eliminate or pay back the debt owed to its students.

The Negative Factor by school year:

  • 2010/11 – $381M
  • 2011/12 – $774M
  • 2012/13 – $1.001B
  • 2013/14 – $1.004B
  • 2014/15 – $880.1M
  • 2015/16 – $830.7M
  • 2016/17 – $830.7M
  • 2017/18 – $828.3M+ projected

The Negative Factor impacts each district/student differently.

The Negative Factor forces districts to reduce spending to balance budgets.

Over the past 7 years, what have districts cut or eliminated to balance budgets?

  • Increased class sizes.
  • Cut teachers and staff.
  • Eliminated technology updates.
  • 4 day school weeks.
  • Cut building and bus maintenance.
  • Reduced/froze salaries.
  • No updates for out of date learning materials.
  • Spend down reserves (drain savings.)
  • Fewer learning opportunities for students.
  • Closed schools.

So, just watch to see who votes Yes on HB1375 and start thinking about elections this year and next and the year after that. Start thinking about what the role of a legislator is and what it should be. Elected officials are supposed to represent all of us, collectively, and listen to constituents. They’re called public servants for a reason. While we appreciate their service, the important part is being a representative of their constituents, which includes a lot of children.

Does your elected official represent you?

Does your representative pit kids against kids?

Does your elected official Support Jeffco Kids?