NO on Voucher Bill  SB22-039!

NO on Voucher Bill  SB22-039!

Funding For Educational Opportunities

Concerning funding for educational opportunities, and, in connection therewith, creating a scholarship program for students to pursue educational opportunities. https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb22-039

Voucher bills.  The GOP comes up with a line-up of them every year.   One thing we’ve learned over time is the many ways they like to refer to them, thinking it will be overlooked that it’s actually a voucher.

SB22-039 while being referred to as an Educational Opportunity and a Scholarship Program is nothing more than a Voucher program, and if you read the bill or the Fiscal Note, it’s blatantly bold in how it works.  It calls for repealing the Budget Stabilization Factor, but then creates the Hope Scholarship Program where it provides for funding student expenditures such as 

  • “Tuition or fees at a nonpublic elementary, middle, or high school, including a nonpublic online school, in Colorado
  • “Costs incurred in providing a non-public home-based educational program”

From the Fiscal Note:

“The bill repeals the budget stabilization factor and establishes the Hope Scholarship Program to assist students with certain educational expenses. The bill makes a one-time state transfer, increases state expenditures, and reduces revenue to school districts on an ongoing basis.

For each participating student, CDE must transfer to the administrating entity an amount equal to the lesser of 125 percent of the statewide average state share of per pupil revenues for the prior budget year, or the state of per pupil revenues in the student’s district of residence. The amount is transferred from the state share that the student’s district of residence would have otherwise received, and prorated based on the time remaining in the budget year.

The intent with this bill may be much more than just creating a Voucher Program, though – For the sponsors (Republican Senators Lundeen and Kirkmeyer),  while knowing full well the chances that it would pass in Committee is null, they hope to use this as an opportunity to rally parents who are already on tangents about CRT and masks in schools, for the upcoming 2022 elections. 

So, not only is this Voucher bill bad legislation for our kids, our schools, and our state, it’s being used as a political strategy to gear up support from the same voters who flipped school boards in parts of the state where we now see chaos and complete disregard for parents, teachers and staff, and ultimately students – such as DougCo and Mesa 5.

We hope folks will see this for what it really is.  

**Update: This bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee Feb. 24th.  Ultimately, it was PI’d (Postponed Indefinitely- a nice way of saying it was killed).  But not before both sponsors and supporters who testified, including a representative for Americans For Prosperity, got their messaging on record.  Reference was made to  Florida’s voucher program frequently.  https://apnews.com/article/florida-school-vouchers-government-and-politics-education-547a9a99655d29c649505ae62d65f593

While listening to the testimony and bill sponsors’ presentation, one of their key messages was ‘what were parents (low-income parents) to do who felt the system was failing their child.’

Rather than lose students to this privatized system (that still provides no guarantee to fix their child’s learning issues and even fewer accountability provisions for those same families in those private institutions), and ultimately leaving fewer funds for the remaining children served in our public schools, we believe we should all be calling on our legislators to fund ALL our public schools equitably and adequately (which we are yet to do in this state.)

Senator Moreno spoke to the fact that while this bill “repeals the budget stabilization factor,” it does not address making that sustainable.  This leaves us still lacking a long-term solution. 

This bill would have opened doors to full privatization of our public school funding system – once you crack the door, you can’t shut it.  The door just gets pushed more open than it was before.