The RAR adjustment – $107 million

Things at the Capitol move quickly this time of year.  Especially when it comes to finalizing the budget and the School Finance Act (Senate Bill 246).   Just a few days ago, Chalkbeat published this report on how the extra money ($107 million) from the RAR adjustment would be distributed.  (As a reminder, these are dollars that will be coming from the Local Share.  Our schools are funded first by the Local Share and then the state is required to backfill what the local share does not.)

According to this Chalkbeat article https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/04/15/tax-windfall-will-benefit-colorado-schools-especially-rural-ones/?fbclid=IwAR1hQx9pbOwp_T_kQGvdj9cLtihhx9d7qtHOewZ04_2TPU8P0tlR23Dedkc, this is how some of these funds will be distributed:

$30 million for rural districts “to address a backlog of needs like building repairs and school bus replacement.”

$23 million toward buydown of BS/Negative Factor

$5 million “for mental health needs”

The Senate Education Committee had an opportunity to make amendments before passing it along to the Joint Budget Committee.

Friday, April 19th,  according to this more recent Chalkbeat article, the numbers for distribution have yet changed again. https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/04/18/colorado-school-finance-act-advances-questions-rural-funding/

$15 million for rural districts

$23 million toward buydown of BS/Negative Factor

$22 million for Special Ed

$5 million “for mental health needs”

We do appreciate that our legislators are working to direct the additional funds from the RAR adjustment into public education.  And we expect there may even be more changes to how the funds are distributed.  Public education, in Colorado, afterall, has a lot of needs.

We thought this quote from the Chalkbeat article was worth noting:

“State Senator Paul Lundeen said that as a conservative – he’s a Monument Republican co-sponsoring the bill – $7.4 billion budget represents a lot of money. But, he said enthusiastically, “Dadgummit, if we’re going to spend money, let’s spend it on the school children of Colorado.”

While we agree with State Senator Lundeen (one of the very few times we’ve been able to say that), we would also remind our legislators how far behind this still leaves us.  To think that our state’s funding for public education is in such a condition that we are rejoicing in a Negative Factor/B.S. Factor – dollars owed public ed since 2010 – over a half a billion dollars.  With the proposed buy-down of $100 million, the new B.S. Factor balance is $572 million.

As Chalkbeat points out, “Senate Bill 246, the annual Public School Finance Act, sets average per pupil spending at $8,479, up more than 4 percent, or $356, from the current year.”   But we’d like to also point out, currently Colorado is $700+ per pupil behind inflation from 2008.

As we have mentioned in previous articles, this is where we are today :

  • Dollars still owed our schools, i.e., the Budget Stabilization Factor/Negative Factor is well over a half billion dollars per year – $672 million
  • Since the Great Recession, the amount owed to our public schools has exceeded $7 billion ($7.5 billion to be exact)
  • Depending on the source, Colorado spends between $2,000 – $2,800 less per pupil than the National Average
  • Reaching the National Average would cost $2.1- $2.8 billion
  • 104 of the state’s 178 school districts have one or more schools on a four day week
  • We ranked 42nd in per pupil spending (ranked further down the list on per pupil funding)
  • We rank last in the country in wage competitiveness for teachers

We appreciate our legislators directing these funds into public education – after all most of those folks elected in November 2018 campaigned as supporters of better funding for public education.  Many even used the talking points from the Amendment 73 campaign.  BTW, Amendment 73 would have raised $1.6 billion for public education.

One more note about the dollars that are being set aside for our Rural Districts.  We think it’s important to note the rural districts received an additional the $30 million over the last two years to help balance their needs.  Our small rural districts, especially, do not enjoy the economies of size like Jeffco, Denver, DougCo, etc.  Their challenges go far beyond that with geography playing a big factor, too.

147 of the state’s 178 school districts fall into the category of Rural or Small Rural.

The average increase in total program funding from 2018/19 – 2019/20:

  • Rural School Districts = 2.41%
  • Non-Rural School Districts = 5.93%

Without targeted rural funding:

  • 74 rural districts will see less than 2% increase from last year
  • 39 rural districts will see less than 1% increase from last year
  • 14 rural districts will see a reduction, receiving less than last year

If we leave these rural districts behind, we are leaving students behind, and it creates a huge opportunity gap.  It appears instead of the $30 million, the rural districts will be offered just half of that, $15 million.   Which of those rural district students are they willing to leave behind?

You can message members of the State Senate Ed Committee and the Joint Budget Committee here, using the link created by Great Schools Thriving Communities.

https://www.greatschoolsthrivingcommunities.org/get-involved/take-action/