David Ulrich: 2020 Colorado state legislative session starts this month
The 2020 Colorado state legislative session begins this month. Senators and representatives will gather from now through May conduct the state’s business. Education funding will be a significant part of the lawmakers’ agenda. There are two items of which I would like the Moffat County School District community to be aware. I encourage everyone to actively follow the progress of these proposals as they could have a significant impact on funding for our students.
First, an interim committee has spent the past three years looking at revamping the school funding formula known as the School Finance Act (SFA.) This formula determines the amount of money per pupil we receive to serve our students. There is a consensus among lawmakers that Colorado’s SFA needs to be reworked and that at twenty-five years old, it does not meet the needs of today’s students. Under the current SFA, most legislators acknowledge that some districts are at a greater advantage than other communities. The committee, led by Representative Julie McCluskie and Representative Paul Lundeen have released a draft of the bill. Key concepts of the legislation include: a new funding formula that would go into effect beginning 2021-22, expanded definition of “at risk students” to include those eligible for reduced-price lunch (not just free lunch,) special education funding would have substantial changes, and near elimination of the cost of living factor.
Second, we anticipate introduction of a bill to set state funding as if all districts were charging property owners the same tax rate. The purpose of the bill is to address the imbalance of school and state contributions to K-12 funding, and the differences in those contributions across districts. Under the current system, residents in the state’s poorest school districts end up paying higher property-tax rates than property-rich school districts nearby. Meanwhile, those wealthier districts receive a disproportionate share of state aid to make up for the lack of education funding collected from local property taxes. Because Moffat County has a lower tax rate than the proposed target, voters would have to approve local tax increases to make up the difference. Generating more money from local taxes would free up state money that could then increase the state of Colorado’s overall investment in education, including increased funding for MCSD.
In this early stage, the impact of these two pieces of legislation for Moffat County Schools is difficult to determine. I encourage readers to pay close attention to the progress of the lawmakers’ session and engage with your local elected officials. Your Colorado State Representative is Mr. Perry Will. He can be reached at 200 East Colfax Room 307, Denver, CO 80203 or 303-866-2949. Your Colorado State Senator is Mr. Bob Rankin. He can be reached at 200 East Colfax Room 346, Denver, CO 80203 or 303-866-5292.
Sources referenced for this article include: Colorado Association of School Executives BriefCASE Newsletter, December 18, 2019
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