Colorado is in unfamiliar territory this year. State revenues are projected to be higher than expected, due to economic growth and the recently enacted federal tax legislation. Now, our legislators must decide where to allocate the extra funds. The big question is: How will this extra money be spent?
There’s no shortage of opinions at the Capitol. Some would like to restore the funding that has been cut from schools in the last decade. Others want any extra dollars to address transportation needs and roads. Governor Hickenlooper wants to address how rural communities continue to be hurt by falling property tax assessment rates.
A brief reminder of what’s been happening with school funding over the last few decades: due to conflicting constitutional amendments and the Legislature’s creation of the Budget Stabilization Factor, school funding has been squeezed. In the 1980s Colorado funded its schools at or above the national average. Today, we spend over $2,000 less per student than the national average, as reported by Great Education Colorado:
In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only nine states spend less than Colorado. Education Week’s 2017 report card gives Colorado a D score, or 40th in the nation in the school finance category.
That’s why Grassroots St Vrain will be watching any bills that are introduced in the Legislature that concern school funding. Here’s a quick summary of what is under consideration so far.
- HB18-1232— New School Funding Distribution Formula. This bill creates a new public school funding distribution formula to replace the outdated formula which has not been changed since 1994. It was created with the input of the majority of Colorado’s school superintendents. The new distribution formula would go into effect IF voters pass a ballot measure that increases state revenue. Bill indefinitely postponed.
- SB18-004 – Funding for Full-day Kindergarten. Under existing law, Colorado pays for half time kindergarten. This bill would fund kindergarten fully if voters pass an accompanying ballot measure to keep revenues over the revenue cap for this purpose. Bill indefinitely postponed.
- SB 18-083 — Tax Credits for Non-public Education. Allows any taxpayer to claim a credit when the taxpayer enrolls a qualified child in a private school, or the taxpayer provides a scholarship to a qualified child for enrollment in a private school. It would also allow any taxpayer who uses home-based education for a qualified child to claim an income tax credit. Bill indefinitely postponed.
- HB18-1171 — School Finance Mid-year Adjustment to Funding. With the number of students lower than expected, and local property tax collections being higher than expected, the “state’s share” of school funding will be less than initially budgeted. This bill proposes to use this money from the General Fund to reduce the Budget Stabilization Factor by $96 mllion. Governor signed.
- HB18-1379 – Public School Finance. Increases per pupil funding by the rate of inflation, or $222 per student, for a total of $6769 in statewide base per pupil funding. Also reduces the Budget Stabilization Factor by $150 million. Governor signed.