Overview of the 2005 Committee and Task Force
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
|Votes: View--> ||Action Taken: |
09:13 AM -- Overview of the 2005 Committee and Task Force
Scott Murphy, Littleton Public Schools, Chair of the 2005 School Finance Task Force; Nina Lopez, Colorado Department of Education (CDE), Member of the 2005 School Finance Task Force; Senator Sue Windels, Chair of the 2005 Interim Committee on School Finance; and Keith King, member of the 2005 Interim Committee on School Finance, came to the table to talk to the committee about the work of the 2005 Interim Committee on School Finance and its associated task force.
Senator Windels began, describing the presentations to and discussions of the 2005 committee. A list of the topics discussed by the committee is contained in the final report of the 2005 committee, which may be accessed on the committee's website (http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/lcsstaff/2009/comsched/09SchoolFinanceSched.html).
Senator Windels provided the committee with her observations based on the presentations made to the 2005 committee. She talked about:
- how the base funding amount was set in the 1994 School Finance Act;
- the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB);
- declining enrollment;
- how at-risk students are identified;
- the cost-of-living study; and
- the need for a new factor to address the cost of choice.
Senator Windels provided a number of statistics related to Colorado and its funding of K-12 education, including information about the state's tax burden. She also discussed the stabilization of the mill levy and school districts' bond limits. Senator Windels talked about funding of special education students and English language learners, saying the 2005 committee discussed whether funding for these groups of students should be in the formula rather than funded as categoricals. She provided further information about the committee's discussions around categoricals and its discussions around the State Education Fund balance.
Senator Windels continued her discussion, explaining that five bills resulted from the committee's work. The text of the bills recommended by the 2005 Interim Committee on School Finance is contained in the committee's report (http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/lcsstaff/2009/comsched/09SchoolFinanceSched.html).
Mr. Murphy described the discussions of the task force and the makeup of the task force, explaining there were representatives from all areas of the state and that parents, educators, and other stakeholders served on the task force. He explained that the focus of the task force was adequacy in school finance. He said the task force had 12 major recommendations, including a recommendation related to capital funding. The final report of the task force is contained in an addendum to the final report of the 2005 committee. Mr. Murphy noted that the task force recommended the formation of a P-16 council and recommended that the General Assembly study revenue, including the state's tax policy and bonding. He talked about the discussion around tax policy and the recommendations of the task force and described some of the unique issues faced in rural areas of the state.
Ms. Lopez explained that she served on the task force as a representative of the Colorado League of Charter Schools and would speaking from that perspective. She talked about outcomes of the task force's work, speaking specifically to the BEST legislation (House Bill 08-1335), which addressed public school capital construction. She talked about the importance of raising the profile of school finance issues, even if the issues cannot be resolved by legislation in 2010. Ms. Lopez said the task force talked not just about how much money is necessary to adequately fund public schools, but about how the money should be spent. She suggested that the committee consider the guiding principles set forth by the task force as identified in the task force's final report. Ms. Lopez talked about her current role with the CDE, which relates to the spending of federal stimulus dollars. She talked about the possibility of piloting programs using federal moneys.
Senator King talked about two concepts that continue to work their way through the process. First he spoke to special education funding, talking about a recent United States Supreme Court decision addressing the issue of whether school districts are required to pay private school tuition for students with disabilities. He also spoke about the funding of special education "tiers" and discussed funding for excess costs for students with disabilities.
Senator King continued, talking about the implementation Amendment 23. He said that discussion needs to come to the forefront and said the committee should look at changing the factors at weighted student funding. He talked about funding issues surrounding the State Education Fund and the solvency of the fund. He discussed the importance of expanding opportunity through concurrent enrollment.
Senator Romer asked the panel to comment on the school finance formula as it relates to the federal standards set forth by NCLB. Senator Windels talked about the 2005 committee's discussions around NCLB as an inflexible federal mandate. Senator Windels also described a task force presentation about weighted student funding, saying the committee might find that helpful. She also suggested that Pamela Ice, the director of the Office of On-line Learning at CDE, should address the committee on the role of on-line education, particularly in rural districts.
Ms. Lopez commented on the shift from discussing inputs to discussing outcomes. She noted that the school finance formula is input based, while other education discussions are outcome based. She asked the committee to think about Senate Bill 09-163 and its implementation. Senate Bill 09-163 aligned the state's accreditation and accountability systems into a single system that meets federal standards. Ms. Lopez also remarked that a task force was convened briefly by the CDE to discuss issues around seat time, and suggested that the committee find out the outcome of that task force's conversations.
Senator King talked about longitudinal assessment of students and said the committee should look further at the concept of centers of excellence. He talked about federal Title I funding, and how that funding is distributed to schools, saying Title I dollars may go to the most needy students in a district, but they do not go to the most needy students in the state. He said the committee should consider seeking a waiver from the federal government if possible.
Senator Romer responded to the panelists' comments, talking about how to ensure that students meet new standards and how to talk to community members about the moneys needed for public education. Senator Windels responded to Senator King's comments about at-risk funding, saying the provisions of the state act need to be addressed before a federal waiver is requested. She also noted that CDE is doing an analysis, as required by Senate Bill 08-212 (Preschool to Postsecondary Education Alignment Act), of the amount of money needed to educate a student.
Mr. Murphy also responded to Senator Romer's comments, talking about the difficulty in talking to the community about the need for more resources for education. He talked about the inputs versus outcomes issue and the issues faced by districts with declining enrollment.
Senator Johnston asked panelists to talk about measuring adequacy. Senator Windels responded, saying the capacity to do that exists. She talked about the state constitution's requirement for a thorough and uniform education. Senator Johnston asked a follow-up question, to which Senator Windels responded, describing a model used by the School Finance Project and the professional judgement model. Senator King responded to Senator Johnston's questions as well, speaking about how to address the issue of funding following at-risk students. He also discussed the measure of adequacy.
Mr. Murphy joined the discussion as well, providing the district perspective on funding following students.
Representative Massey spoke to equity, specifically bringing up issues around equity in delivery of programs in rural school districts. Senator Windels responded, talking about the importance of a good supplemental on-line program, especially in rural districts. Representative Massey responded, saying there are some courses that do not lend themselves to on-line learning.
Ms. Lopez talked about the need for broadband in schools. She also talked about the equitable distribution of teachers and how to get teachers where they are needed most. Ms. Lopez also responded to Senator Johnston's earlier questions around how adequacy is measured. She talked about costs faced by districts and said that in spite of the move toward discussing outcomes, the School Finance Act continues to be very prescriptive. She also discussed the ability of districts to use moneys efficiently.
Representative Merrifield talked about the importance of keeping in mind what proposals mean at the district level. Mr. Murphy responded, speaking again from the district perspective, saying that when dollars come into districts, before the district talks about what is best for children, it is paying bills. Senator Spence responded to Mr. Murphy's comments, asking him to speak to how his district achieves such good results with limited resources. Mr. Murphy responded, talking about the importance of parental involvement.
Senator Johnston asked about operationalizing academic need. Senator King responded, talking about the importance of continuing to support schools that have success with at-risk students. He suggested using a window of time - longitudinal growth data - in looking at academic achievement. Senator Windels commented that the committee should look at state support for boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES).
Senator Romer asked Mr. Murphy to comment on how, if there were increased funding, it should be distributed. Mr. Murphy responded, talking about getting resources where they make a difference. Senator Romer talked about the realities of the current economic climate. Senator Windels responded to Senator Romer's comments, talking about problems around adding resources to an inadequate base funding amount.
Representative Stephens asked the panelists to talk about how to convince the public that schools are doing the best they can do with the available funding and how there can be more transparency. Mr. Murphy responded, talking about incentivizing school districts. He told the committee about the approach used by the state in the past in this regard.
The committee took a brief recess.