Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance – Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance –  Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

Kudos to Chalkbeat reporter Erica Meltzer on her recap of the recent meeting of the Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance.


The committee was granted an extension of one additional year via House Bill 19-094 and is charged with studying school finance issues and making legislative recommendations concerning funding of Kindergarten through grade 12.  http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/bills/fn/2019a_sb094_00.pdf

A full day meeting, committee members received presentations on the school finance funding formula and Colorado’s school finance “system” (state and local shares).  If you’ve got the time and interest, you can view those presentations here http://leg.colorado.gov/node/1652056/ or you can find additional information at the Colorado School Finance Project’s website: https://cosfp.org/

Suffice it to say, the bipartisan committee’s members’ perspective and ideology are varied.  We were thankful, State Senator Rachel Zenzinger was clear in pointing out the need to address funding.

“…if we are unwilling to have that hard conversation about revenue and the underlying factors that are driving this, we are not solving the problem.” 

As Meltzer writes, “The billions that do flow to schools are distributed in wildly unequal ways that mean well-off districts sometimes get more state help than poorer ones. Redistributing resources without adding more money to the system inevitably means some districts will get less from the state than they do now.”

Cutting to the chase, it would just create Winners and Losers –  a.k.a. rearranging the deck chairs.

Some legislators had no interest in looking at how to add dollars.

“…Senator Paul Lundeen, a Monument Republican and the vice chair of the committee, sees the revenue question as secondary…money should be spent in a way that reflects student needs, he said.  Whether districts get more or less should not be a major concern.”

“…Let’s spend the money we do have in a more efficient way that gets us a better result.”

Sound familiar?

The committee has engaged EdBuild a group contracted in the previous session to build a tool (called a “Simulator”) to “help members understand where dollars will go when making decisions”.  https://edbuild.org/team  With past ties to Michelle Rhee and Students First, it will be interesting to see how this work progresses (and in what direction..  According to Mat Barnum, in T74 (who also writes nationally for Chalkbeat) EdBuild is distancing itself from the traditional “Reform Community” by focusing on funding and equity instead of school choice and teacher quality. https://www.the74million.org/article/edbuild-how-a-new-player-in-the-ed-reform-game-is-skipping-the-usual-battles-lines-to-focus-on-funding/

What we find incredibly interesting, is that during the 2018 Legislative Session this committee (which did have many different members) had most of the hard work already done for them – that is if they truly wanted an updated, and more equitable school funding formula.  It was work done by our state’s superintendents.  We refer to HB18-1232 sponsored by then House Rep. Dave Young.  As co-chairs/founders for Support Jeffco Kids, we testified together in support of the bill.  After a full day of testimony from superintendents involved in the work, and supporters of their work, the bill went nowhere.  And, if you read our article from April of 2018, you’d be appalled at what little credit or thanks the superintendents got for their efforts.  Our impression was since the proposed superintendent formula didn’t come from within the committee, it wasn’t to be considered.


Here are some other topics discussed by the committee worth making note and watching for in future meetings:

The committee did have a fairly deep discussion with the folks from ReBuild regarding Special Ed and “High Need” students.  Colorado designates about half as much funding for “High-Need” students as Mississippi, and Mississippi has about half as many “High-Need” students as Colorado.   Expect this conversation to be continued in the next meeting. No doubt it needs attention, but –

without adding funds for the formula, who loses to increase funding for this need?

Based on most recent info about Full Day Kindergarten being $40 million over budget, this will bring about even more challenges for the Committee.  Colorado Sun’s story here: https://coloradosun.com/2019/07/01/colorado-full-day-kindergarten-budget-shortfall/

DeBrucing, a.k.a. Proposition CC. 

It’ll be on our November 2019 ballot, but will all the members of this committee support it knowing it would be an added revenue source for K-12?

Mill Levy Equalization. 

A conversation the legislature had this past session but never brought to any legislation, the work on this was and still is being championed by Senator Rankin.

And in case you’ve forgotten just where we are on funding public ed in Colorado, we invite you to check out our article on Tabor Refunds http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/tabor-refunds/

As a partner in the Great Schools Thriving Community Coalition, SJK continues to be actively involved in how our state is looking to solve its education funding issue.  If you are interested in following the Interim Committee’s work more closely, you can ask to be listed to an Interested Persons’ List SchoolFinance.ga@state.co.us.

In the meantime,

“They say if you want to know what a community values, look at how its children are treated.  If you want a sense of what a community hopes for the future, look at how it values its schools.”