Colorado School Finance Project
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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12:22 PM -- Colorado School Finance Project
Tracie Rainey, representing the Colorado School Finance Project, shared a handout with the committee members (Attachment H) and explained how she can be a resource to committee members. She provided the committee with background on the Colorado School Finance Project and on the 2005 interim committee on school finance. She also posed some considerations for this year's committee, including: the implementation of a standards-based system, what would be included in a foundation formula, and the interaction of Senate Bill 08-212 with the formula.
Ms. Rainey reviewed the elements of a standard based system, such as the new standards, the growth model, new assessments, new accountability system, and resources. She also discussed the base amount for a foundation formula and the related adjustments to the base amount. She specifically discussed the following factors: school district size, cost of living versus cost of doing business, personnel cost, at-risk, English language learners, special education, and adjusting for school choice and time.
Ms Rainey also discussed technology, concurrent enrollment, and uncontrollable costs to districts. She noted the varied needs schools have for technology, which is not limited to giving a computer to each child. She discussed the program opportunities for students in a concurrent enrollment program. Ms. Rainey suggested high gasoline prices or energy costs as an example of an uncontrollable cost.
Ms. Rainey encouraged the committee to focus on establishing goals for the interim committee and reviewed the goals set in 1994 when the current formula was enacted. She noted that the standards system looks much different today than it did in 1994. She also provided some considerations to learn from the past, including the unintended consequences of the Gallagher and TABOR amendments on the School Finance Act. These amendments resulted in $1.65 billion in local tax relief over 15 years, which was a funding loss to K-12. She encouraged the committee to consider the school finance act and other legislation that impacts it when setting goals and making decisions on the formula. She noted the importance of creating a framework and timeline for implementation.
Ms. Rainey also presented a question on how to pay for school finance, specifically asking what could the local and state split be, what are the challenges for the state and districts. She also noted that the legislature must consider that school districts are 18 months ahead of the state budget in making budgeting decisions.
Representative Middleton asked about a techology-related fee and the cost per pupil for testing, specifically what other states are doing that could be considered models or lessons. Ms. Rainey that it will be easier to identify assessment costs once the current system is overhauled under the Senate Bill 08-212 implementation. She discussed connectivity issues for all districts and computer access. Senator Hudak shared thoughts from her constituents regarding property tax assessments and mill levies. She offered for consideration a state property tax system instead of individual, local mill levies. Senator Bacon commented that the school finance interim committee needs to collaborate with the long term fiscal stability commission and the poverty reduction taskforce in order to address these issues.
Senator Romer noted the importance of working with the business community on addressing the state's budget issues, specifically noting that the growth model can be a vehicle for demonstrating to the business community the need and the value of public education. Senator Hudak responded to Senator Romer's comments and discussed business property taxes in light of the Gallagher amendment. She also provided the committee with information on the education sub-committee of the poverty reduction taskforce.