Across the Street: Colorado legislature working to improve education
January 17, 2019
During our monthly meeting, as the first week of the 72nd legislative session began, the State Board of Education walked across the street to attend the State of the State address, where Gov. Jared Polis reiterated his primary education related promise.
“Our top priority this session is empowering every single Colorado community to offer free, full-day kindergarten while expanding free preschool to 8,000 more Colorado children,” Colorado's new governor said.
The state already pays for kindergarten students to attend for half-day classes, and many school districts offer full-day kindergarten, using district funds and parent-paid tuition to fund the additional half day. If the state agrees to pay for free, full-day kindergarten for all kindergarten students in Colorado, the estimated cost will be an additional $250 million per year.
In the first week of the new session, 107 new bills were introduced, and 17 of these involved education. Of the 17, five were sponsored by Democrats, four by Republicans, and 8 bipartisan. From their introduction, the bills will pass through the Senate and House committees and to both the Senate and House Chambers before they become law. Many never get that far, but for now, legislators worked into the night to get their five bills written and submitted by the Jan. 10 deadline.
In addition to following all the legislative activity at the Capitol, the State Board of Education met for two days. One of our duties involved a vote to approve the monthly allocation of state funds to the 178 school districts in Colorado.
Under the public-school finance act of 1994 (Section 22-54-115, C.R.S.), the state board is responsible for determining the monthly amount of money each school district receives from the state. At our January meeting, we certified the December 2018 calculations and distribution. All districts and state distribution amounts were listed. The calculations for January through June will be certified at the February meeting. All information is available on the State Board of Education website.
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Following are examples of the state distribution for districts in three counties I represent:
• Roaring Fork, with 5,524 students — $1,825,907.67.
• Garfield, with 1,163 students — $681,911.92.
• Meeker, with 700 students — $191,591.25.
• Rangely, with 483 students — $288,488.64.
• Moffat County, with 2,106 students — $595,107.88.
Throughout Colorado, the December distribution totaled $367,678,953.24.
In another vote, the state board approved a Charter School appeal for the SKIES Academy. The SKIES Academy Charter application was initially granted, but later revoked, by the Cherry Creek School District. The state board found this was not in the best interest of students, families, and the community and remanded the charter to go back to the local district to work together for a resolution. Charter SKIES Academy, based at Centennial Airport, will be a hands-on, project-based curriculum for sixth- through eighth-graders. It will focus on students desiring a possible career in aerospace engineering, piloting. and other aspects of aviation.
Thus we begin the first month of the 2019 Legislative Session and the first state board meeting of the new year.
Joyce Rankin represents Colorado's 3rd Congressional District on the State Board of Education. She writes the monthly column “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the State Capitol.