Welcome to Grassroots St. Vrain! Part of our mission is to share and explain how Colorado funds its public schools, not just in the St. Vrain Valley School District, but statewide. Do you have questions about how our schools are funded? Don’t miss our series of short videos that explain things such as the Colorado state funding formula, why we have local initiatives, and yes, where the money from marijuana goes.
It was a head-spinning final two weeks for the Colorado State Legislature, which concluded May 10. In the final days several bills were passed that will affect education funding, and several more died over the course of the session. Here are the education funding highlights from this legislative session:
- Passed-Senate Bill 17-296, Financing Public Schools: The statewide base per pupil funding will rise to $6,546, a 2.8% inflationary increase. Schools will receive, on average, about $242 more per pupil. Despite mid-year predictions of an increase to the Negative Factor, it will remain at its current level of $828 million. This shortfall represents the amount total per pupil funding (not just the base) has fallen behind inflation. The State Board of Equalization made a technical adjustment to its formula that values commercial property tax this year, which gave lawmakers enough extra revenue to avoid further cuts to schools. Interestingly, lawmakers also voted to change the name of this term from “Negative Factor” to “Budget Adjustment.” Whatever the name, it still is a mechanism to balance the state budget.
- Passed-House Bill 17-1375 Distributing Mill Levy Override Revenue to Schools: This was a hot topic, and required lots of last minute rewrites and closed door sessions to get passed. The bill requires school districts to either distribute revenues it receives from local property tax mill levies overrides equally, on a per-student basis, to the school district charter schools, or develop a detailed plan on how to use the proceeds to best meet the needs of all students regardless of the school they attend.
- Passed-Senate Bill 17-267, Sustainability of Rural Colorado: The best example of bi-partisanship this year. Spurred by the threat of rural hospitals closing due to the way the hospital provider fee was classified, (and cut), in the state budget, both sides of the aisle worked together to bring a major change to Colorado. This bill reclassifies the Hospital Provider Fee to a TABOR-exempt enterprise, which allows Colorado to keep more revenue collected that is otherwise limited by the TABOR revenue cap. In exchange, the current TABOR cap was reduced by $200 million, and state agencies must cut two percent from their budgets. The bill also increases the retail marijuana special sales tax from 10 to 15%, which will bring $30 million to rural schools next year and $40 million to the State Education Fund over the following two years.
- Passed-House Bill 17-1340, Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance: The last time Colorado changed the way the state funds its schools was in 1994. This bill creates a legislative interim committee to study over two years how Colorado finances its schools, and make legislative recommendations concerning how to most accurately meet the educational needs of students through the funding of education in Colorado.
So what failed? A major effort to increase transportation funding for our state, as well as House Bill 17-1187, which would have modified the excess state revenue cap as defined by TABOR, thus allowing to the state to keep more of the revenue it collects.
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