Please Write These Legislators

During the 2017 legislative session, when Colorado’s legislators were facing, yet again, the challenge of funding public education and how to address a teacher shortage of crisis levels, Senate Bill1340 appeared to be their solution.

In lieu of taking any kind of risk by proposing or referring some kind of ballot initiative that might actually raise revenue, which would likely require addressing TABOR, Gallagher, and Amendment 23, or even increasing taxes, they offered up a two-year study of school finance instead– created by SB1340.

This legislative committee is made up of a bipartisan group of legislators: Rep. Alec Garnett (Committee Chair), Sen. Owen Hill (Committee Vice Chair), Rep. Paul Lundeen were all sponsors of the bill. Other members of this committee are Rep. Janet Buckner, Rep. Tim Leonard, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Rep. Millie Hamner, Sen. Michael Merrifield, Sen. Bob Gardner, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger.

They have been tasked to study and make recommendations for legislation for how to fund the educational needs of Colorado students.

We fear, without pushback from constituents to remind them public taxpayer dollars must stay in public schools, voucher proponents such as Sen. Owen Hill, Rep. Leonard, and Rep. Lundeen, especially, will use this committee to open the door to the direction of privatizing our public schools. Just this morning during Chalkbeat’s Legislative Preview for the upcoming session, Rep. Paul Lundeen described a back-pack style of funding in order to adequately pay teachers.

During yesterday morning’s Chalkbeat panel, Rep. Paul Lundeen also talked about how the members of the Interim Finance committee were now discussing and establishing values. We have an opportunity to let the committee know what our values are next Tuesday, Jan. 9 when the committee will hear public comment. (See below for details on the time and location.)

It is never too early and we can never say it too often that public taxpayer dollars MUST remain to fund education in PUBLIC schools.

This committee needs to hear from parents, teachers, and a broad swath of community members that they must address increasing our funding statewide and ensure that funding of public taxpayer dollars remains in public schools.

We need to remind our legislators that to continue to propose how to cut the pie differently, without increasing the size of the pie does nothing to help our students in public schools. Our current situation with a Budget Stabilization Factor (BS Factor aka Negative Factor) of $830 million is living proof that does not work.

As we said before, that’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Details on Tuesday’s meeting location and time:

Legislative Service Building Hearing Room B (corner of Sherman Street and 14th Avenue, on the south side of the Colorado State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver)

If you know in advance that you intend to address the committee in person on January 9th, please email  so that they have a sense of the time demands necessary to accommodate all interested parties. Legislative staff will follow up with additional instructions for interested parties and stakeholders.

“Following a short presentation from the consultants concerning capital construction and school district organization, the committee will reserve  the remaining time to consider public testimony and to engage stakeholders.”

You are also welcome to send the committee written testimony which staff  will distribute to legislators.

In preparing your testimony or drafting your written comments, please consider addressing the following questions:

  • What do you see as the problem that is to be solved?
  • What are the guiding values or principles that you believe should be reflected in school finance and funding?
  • In your opinion, does the current system reflect those values/principles? Why or why not?
  • What are one or two strategies that you believe constitute “success” in a new finance and funding system?”

To write individual members of the committee:

Chair, Representative Alec Garnett

Vice Chair, Senator Owen Hill

Representative Janet Buckner

Representative Bob Gardner

Representative Millie Hamner

Representative Timothy Leonard

Representative Paul Lundeen

Senator Michael Merrifield

Senator Jerry Sonnenberg

Senator Rachel Zenzinger