State revenues, school funding: The good news, the complicated news

Colorado’s official March Revenue Forecast is “brighter days ahead.” According to state officials, our economy continues to recover from the 2008 recession with an anticipated increase in revenue for the 2013-14 state budget, somewhere between $194M and $256M.

Will that mean an increase to K-12 schools? We don’t know yet. First, we have to have a school finance bill, and this year there are two.

Lawmakers learned about one such bill, called the Future School Finance Act (Senate Bill 213), through presentations and testimony that went into the late evening Monday. CEA Executive Director Tony Salazar spoke on behalf of CEA members, saying that Association leaders and staff are studying how the bill will address the “gaping holes” in public education funding.

The Legislature’s $1 billion in school funding cuts over the last four years have resulted in job losses, bigger classes, more fees for families, and reduced courses offerings and opportunities for students, at the same time as educators are required to implement unfunded state mandates.

The Lobato school funding lawsuit outlines the state’s longtime school funding problems. The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral argument March 7 in the landmark case in which the trial court judge found no rational relationship between the outcomes the state expects from K-12 and how it funds schools. Some estimates, including those of the CEA-backed Colorado School Finance Project (COSFP), are that Colorado’s K-12 system needs more than $4 billion to meet current resource needs.

Salazar told the Senate Education Committee that CEA has worked in the Colorado School Finance Partnership to craft a new school finance act, one that would replace the 1994 finance act currently in use. He said, “We are examining SB 213 to see how it will impact the growth and achievement of students across Colorado and the vitality of the education profession. We agree with much of the bill’s premise and components, but believe there is room to improve it to properly address education funding.”

Salazar said the bill is potentially a game-changer for funding, but that it should not pit districts against each other. “It’s not just policy debate for us because we will live though the human implications of the bill’s provisions every single day. We need to get this bill right,” Salazar stated.

Lawmakers expect to see numerous amendments to SB 213 beginning today. We anticipate that the bill will move swiftly through the legislative process. Its implementation, however, is conditional, based on passage of a statewide ballot measure to increase state revenues for K-12 funding. If the voters do not approve the ballot measure, being developed separately from the legislation, SB 213 will not be the law – another “regular” school funding bill will go into effect instead.

This is why legislators will see two funding bills this session. Lawmakers have not introduced the regular bill yet, though they will do so soon. They will be doing double duty between now and the May 8 end of the legislative session, juggling two school funding bills that will both directly affect the lives of Colorado students and their families, teachers, support staff, school administrators, and school boards.

As SB 213 is discussed at the Capitol, we will cover aspects of it here and review the regular school funding bill too.

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One Comment on “State revenues, school funding: The good news, the complicated news”

  1. Deborah Sheinman Says:

    Not knowing the provisions of this bill, I’m somewhat fearful as regards its passage, given the outrageous, mean-spirited, past behavior of the bill’s author, State Senator Michael Johnston. I hope that CEA will make certain that no other bullying and/or malicious provisions are included in this bill.


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