Commissioner of Education
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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03:34 PM -- Commissioner of Education
Senator Heath explained that the commissioner would be giving an overview of the education funding system and then at the next commission meeting the commission would have a discussion over the cost of education similar to the one today on transportation.
03:36 PM -- Commissioner Jones, Colorado Commissioner of Education, introduced Vody Herrmann, Assistant Commissioner on Financing Public Schools, Robert Hammond, Deputy Commissioner, and Rich Wenning, Associate Commissioner on Legislation and Policy, and distributed a handout (Attachment A). Commissioner Jones explained that the state needs to ensure an education system that provides every student with access to a high quality school.
Commissioner Jones talked about the positive proficiency levels in the state and mentioned that the state needs to work on issues related to at-risk students, who can be minority or low income children. He listed other key roles the state needs to take regarding education, including:
- ensuring that the state fosters an effective human capital strategy that attracts, develops, and maintains the best and brightest teachers and leaders;
- establishing sound and rigorous state standards for what children should know and be able to do and an aligned assessment system that assures how well the state is delivering on the promise of getting all kids ready for exit;
- provide useful and timely information to parents and educators to support student performance and school improvement;
- supporting and intervening with schools and districts that are struggling to meet student need and making sure there is a system of support that meets the needs of rural districts; and
- evaluating or making sure the state is paying attention to the return on investment in education.
Commissioner Jones talked about some legislation in education, including Senate Bill 212, the CAP for kids bill, that is attempting to realign content standards by looking at common core standards. He said teachers have said that the standards that were used over the last 10 years are too broad. Lastly, the bill includes grade-level specific standards and the commissioner talked about the problem of unbundling standards in order to determine what to teach children and when. The Commissioner also talked about Senate Bill 163 that aligns the three accountability systems: School Accountability Reports (SAR), the accreditation system, and the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind. Finally, the Commissioner discussed House Bill 1065, the teacher identification bill that connects teachers to the achievement of the children in order to ensure there is a high quality work force.
Mr. Jones said the department needs to find a way to assess programs. He also talked about the federal government's role and the race to the top. He said teachers are fearful that there will not be enough training to roll out these new systems.
03:56 PM -- Vody Herrmann, Assistant Commissioner on Financing Public Schools, walked through the school finance formula. She explained that the formula allows for base per pupil spending and once per pupil funding is determined, an average is taken and the lowest districts are taken up to a 95 percent funded level. Ms. Herrmann also talked about the free lunch program and its funding. As the economy gets worse, the number of free lunches tend to increase. She said that in 1994, 44 percent of funding was local and 54 percent state, about 60 local and 40 state. Now, it is about 65 percent state and 35 percent local. Ms. Herrmann talked about the impact of the residential rate dropping. She also talked about the increase in the number of students. In 1994, there were 612,488 students. Today, there are 787,065 students, an increase of 28.5 percent, or 11,600 students per year for each of the 14 years. The other growth they have seen is in the free lunch program. In 1994 there were 138,836 in the program and now there are 250,722, an 80.6 percent increase. Ms. Neilson asked why there is only a 28 percent growth in enrollment and an 80 percent growth in free lunch.
Robert Hammond, Deputy Commissioner, talked about the make-up of education funding. He explained the department received $4.7 billion in total appropriations, of which general fund dollars made up 69 percent, or 3.3 billion, cash funds 17 percent, or $810 million, reappropriated funds 0.5 percent, or $22.7 million, and federal funds 13 percent, or $621 million. He explained that 1.1 percent is issued for management and operations of the department.
Mr. Coors asked for a projected increase in the number of students over the next 5 to 10 years. Ms. Herrmann estimated about a 1.5 to 1.6 percent increase in population each year. Representative Court asked which regions in the state have the most growth. Ms. Herrmann said that on-line schools are increasing the most and mentioned some counties, including Douglas County and the Fort Carson area. Mr. Fagan asked how the state is doing on class size and teacher experience. The commissioner explained that there are many factors that relate to schools that achieve good outcomes. Commissioner Jones said the new "School View" program will track a number of factors so they can better answer that question. The new system will allow for comparisons between the number of minority students to similar districts, and he explained that sometimes you can have a large class size and still achieve good outcomes. Mr. Fagan talked about the voters allowing the legislature to float the mill levy to adjust the 65/35 state and local share and whether that would adjust those numbers. Ms. Herman said she believes this would work if certain caps are put in place.
Mr. Conway talked about the trends in population throughout the country, lower birth rates, and low migration.
Natalie Mullis, Chief Economist, Legislative Council, explained that there is still a high migration to Colorado even though there is a reduction in inflation. There was a discussion about factors in the growth of students in the state. Ms. Herman talked about the addition of preschool. There was a discussion about the increase in military troops at Fort Carson and the impact that has on student numbers. A discussion ensued regarding federal funds for those troops. Ms. Boigon asked about funding for special education and its make up. Ms. Cooke talked about her experience teaching American history in college and the lack of writing knowledge.
04:53 PM -- Mr. Wenning, Associate Commissioner on Legislation and Policy, was asked to talk about school assessment.
Senator heath wrapped up the meeting and explained that the next meeting will be in September with the Department of Education. The committee adjourned.