The House Education Committee postponed a vote on the New School Funding Distribution Formula on Monday following several hours of testimony.

Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, who sponsored the bill, requested the vote be delayed so superintendents could have time to craft amendments to the bill they introduced earlier this year to the Colorado General Assembly.

Cathy Kipp, president of the Poudre School District Board of Education, said she agreed with Young’s request to delay the vote. She said she’d been to sessions over the past four years where the superintendents worked on the bill. They were methodical and thought out the issues, she said.   

Cathy Kipp (Photo: Submitted)

It’s better to address concerns with facts and research-based solutions than to just add an amendment, Kipp said.

The proposed formula, if passed, would overhaul the way school funds are distributed once the state acquires an additional $1.6 billion in education funding. Of Colorado’s 178 superintendents, 171 spent the past four years crafting the new funding model, including Poudre School District Superintendent Sandra Smyser. 

More: Sacrificing Our Schools: Colorado legislature struggles to fund schools, so superintendents stepped up in 2018

The bill would modernize Colorado’s school finance formula, which hasn’t changed much since it was enacted in 1994. The formula aims to more equitably distribute funds to districts that educate underserved and higher-need students.

The new formula would:

  • Allow districts to receive more money for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator for poverty. The current formula factors in only students who qualify for free lunch.
  • Add more money to per-pupil base funding for English language learners, gifted and talented students, and students with special education needs. 
  • Recognize differences among districts, such as cost differences related to the size of the district and the impact of geography on things such as bus routes. 
  • Recognize the costs of running each school and how much competing districts pay their teachers. 

The bill also allows school districts to decide on a local level what to do with the money they receive.

But there’s a catch: It won’t go into effect until the state funds education with an additional $1.6 billion.

That money could come from any source, but a ballot initiative called Great Schools, Thriving Communities, or Initiative 93, aims to meet the need. It’s a graduated income tax on residents who earn more than $150,000 per year.

Kipp said there have been rumors swirling around that the bill will die. She expects that it will. But, she said, that likely won’t be the end of the push to change the state’s distribution model. Even amid rumors of the bill’s imminent death, there’s still a push to get Great Schools, Thriving Communities on the ballot this year, Kipp said.  

Great Schools, Thriving Communities can stand on its own, Kipp said, even if the new distribution model doesn’t make it out of the House Education Committee.

The additional funding would allow Colorado districts to offer free full-day kindergarten to all children. It would also eliminate the negative factor. So, Kipp said, she’s still out collecting signatures.

A committee vote on the superintendents’ proposal hasn’t yet been rescheduled, and the legislature will end its regular session on May 9.

“They will have to vote eventually,” Kipp said. “They didn’t vote to postpone indefinitely.”

 

 

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