With just under a month left in the remaining session at the Colorado Legislature, multiple bills that would change funding for our public schools are in the works. Here’s a quick summary of bills under consideration.
HB19-1055 Public School Cap Construction Financial Assistance. This bill would send all of the excise tax collected on marijuana sales to the Best Excellent Schools Today (or BEST) Fund, which awards funding to building projects and repairs to schools with the greatest need. Currently 90% (or $40 million, whichever is greater) goes to the BEST fund. The impact is projected to be around an extra $5.8 million this year.
HB19-1257 Voter Approval to Retain Revenue for Education and Transportation. PASSED. Refers a measure to Colorado voters’ November ballot that would ask to retain revenues collected over the TABOR limit instead of issuing TABOR refunds to taxpayers. Estimated TABOR refunds this year are estimated at $69 million, while no refunds are predicted in the following two years. This bill would not change TABOR or the state constitution and would require a simple majority to pass.
HB19-1258 Allocate Voter-approved Revenue for Education and Transportation. If the bill above is passed, this companion bill would allocate the retained revenue equally amongst public schools, higher education, and transportation (roads, bridges, and transit).
HB19-1262 State Funding for Full-day Kindergarten. PASSED. This is the big one and would fulfill Governor Jared Polis’ campaign promise. The measure changes the current state funding of half-day Kindergarten to full-day, which means school districts can no longer charge fees for Kindergarten to make up the difference. School districts that do not already offer full days must submit a plan to implement programming, but will not yet be required to offer it. Currently about 80% of Colorado’s kindergarteners, or 50,000 students, go to school full-time while 13,000 students attend half-day programs.
SB19-128 School Finance Mid-year Adjustments. PASSED. This bill adjusts the current budget to reflect lower than projected student count and at-risk student count. Additionally, collected property taxes were higher than expected, thus the state’s share of Total Program Funding for schools was reduced by $77 million. Of this surplus, $12.9 million will go to schools via the State Education Fund, and $64.1 million returns to the General Fund.
SB19-201 The Long Bill. This annual bill specifies the budget for the coming fiscal year starting July 1, 2019. At this point, the budget provides $185 million to fund full-day kindergarten, an additional $120 million to higher education in order to keep tuitions flat, and uses $77 million to “buy down” the Budget Stabilization Factor, which would reduce the amount Colorado has fallen behind in funding its schools. Currently this “BS” factor sits at $672 million behind inflation.
The legislative session will end May 3, at which point GSV will provide a summary of the updated changes to school funding.