K-12 Education Discussion
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
|Votes: View--> ||Action Taken: |
01:34 PM -- K-12 Education Discussion
The commission reconvened.
The education panel, including Education Commissioner Dwight Jones, Ms. Vody Herrmann, and Dr. Ken Turner, returned to the table. The commission continued its discussion on funding and goals for K-12 education. Mr. Knox began by asking the education panel about local and state funding. Ms. Vody Herrmann shared her thoughts about teacher's salaries, and explained that Colorado continues to face a great disparity compared to other states. She further explained that at-risk students need more assistance. She stated that the funding formula in Colorado was a fair funding formula, but that the state does not provide the funding for the formula.
Ms. Herrmann continued sharing her thoughts about education funding. She stated that something needed to change in order to provide the necessary funding. Discussion ensued about the mill levy and school finance.
The commission continued its discussion about what benefits Colorado receives for its investment in education. Representative Court asked about school funding for both large and small school districts. Ms. Herrmann stated that rural counties face among the greatest disparities in funding, such as the San Luis Valley region. Representative Court continued raising questions about how students in lower-funded districts were doing.
Mr. Jones explained that about 20 percent of schools experiencing these disparities were in rural areas and 51 percent were in larger schools. Representative Court asked the Commissioner how rural districts were performing with their funding proportionally compared to other school districts. Mr. Jones shared his own experiences growing up in a rural district. He said there are things we can learn about the strategies of these schools, discussing examples of providing Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry in the curriculum and making technology available in these areas. Most of the funding in Title 1, he said, is from the federal government, and urban and suburban schools are still receiving most of the Title 1 funding.
Dr. Turner stated that the commission looked at performance in rural and urban areas. He provided statistics about school performance, and explained that both the best and worst performing schools are in rural areas. Mr. Hume stated that comparing urban and rural districts can result in an "apples to oranges" comparison because of class size and teacher ratios. In addition, teacher pay in rural districts is significantly lower, and the teachers can be retained for a lower cost. These factors need to be taken into consideration when examining the performance of rural districts, Mr. Hume stated.
Mr. Fagan asked the panel whether there is a uniform mill levy. Ms. Herrmann responded that there is no uniform mill and that each school district has a different levy. She further explained the local sources of funding, including property tax revenue and specific ownership tax revenue, and that the state must backfill the rest of the funding. Mr. Fagan raised questions about TABOR, a state-wide mill levy, and increasing the local share of educational funding. Senator Heath also shared his thoughts about residential values declining. Mr. Fagan raised the question about the state funding only categorical programs and how this would affect education finance in Colorado.
Senator Heath discussed early childhood education and what steps are needed to get students ready for high school and college. Ms. Boigon responded that she serves on the board of the Denver preschool program, and she said the board has made a commitment to find longitudinal outcomes for preschool children. She stated that 5,000 children are in the program, which is larger than expected. The program is currently under funded, she explained, and the board is considering how to address this issue. Ms. Boigon provided additional background information about Denver's efforts in this area. She stated that Colorado needs to provide early childhood education at a high quality level.
Mr. Coors raised questions about how the early childhood education program was funded. Ms. Boigon responded that it is a tuition reimbursement program based on the level of income. Ms. Boigon also responded that, because of her experiences running Head Start, she understood the importance of parent involvement. She also expressed her views about paid time-off for low income workers and a change in the work structure so these individuals could better participate in their children's education.
Senator Brophy shared his views about funding education, and asked the panel where Colorado needed to invest more. Dr. Turner responded that head start data is clear that persistent benefits occur over time when investing in childhood education. He also explained that there is evidence that children have the opportunity to catch-up.
Senator Brophy also asked the panel where they would increase the investment now with the resources the state has. Mr. Jones responded that it would depend on the school district and the issues facing that local district. He stated it was important to focus on early childhood education and concurrent enrollment. Mr. Jones also stated that he would likely use a slight increase in resources to focus on creating high quality teachers and providing them with the necessary resources they need to succeed to keep the impact closest to the classroom.
Senator Brophy continued by discussing the book Outliers authored by Malcolm Gladwell. Socioeconomic status, according to the book, has as much to do with the success of young people, Senator Brophy stated. Students that were engaged in educational activities during the summer did better than students that were more sedentary during this period. Senator Brophy continued sharing his thoughts about this book.
Mr. Coors raised questions about how dollars are spent in relation to achievement and student performance. Dr. Turner said there is not one specific study or set of data that provides evidence that a specific type of approach creates better performance, but that educating children year-round has shown some good results. Mr. Jones also said that the information tells educators that students who have a large gap in time between breaks lose some ground. He said there is the potential that students could make more gains if they didn't lose as much time. The possibility of getting better results would exist, he stated.
Representative Court said that year-round schooling was done by Jefferson County, and that some historical data should exist. She continued sharing her views about class size and whether money could be more effectively spent. She raised the question "Where would the funding be the most valuable?"
Mr. Jones stated this is a difficult question. He explained that when he was a principal, whenever the school started a new program, he would look at what existing programs needed to be eliminated. He stated that going to taxpayers for additional funding is not always an option. Mr. Jones said he has looked at how to allocate resources to address the greatest need. When resources are scarce, it is a good time to look at opportunities that are before us.
Ms. Boigon raised questions about differential teaching to meet the needs of students with unique needs. Dr. Turner stated that the commission is looking at additional actions that can be taken in this area. There is an acknowledgment that we need to be using more customized solutions for young people. Mr. Hume stated that it is important to make funding decisions based on the facts. Mr. Jones responded that to get better results some overall additional funding may be needed.
Representative Court stated the reality is that Colorado will have to do more with less. She asked the panel where the state should focus its attention and what will this cost. Mr. Jones stated that the fiscal commission's charge is to look at what the state needs in the long-term. The commission, he said, will need to examine what the educational system should be and what will be best for Colorado citizens and families.
Ms. Herrmann distributed a handout that reconciles the numbers between revenue and expenditure reports for education (Attachment D). She also distributed information that provides a comparison of revenue and expenditures by school district in Colorado (Attachment E). This information is taken from CDE's report entitled "Colorado School Districts and Boards of Cooperative Services Revenue and Expenditures FY 2007-08," which can also be found on the department's website at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/FY07-08RevExp.htm.
Ms. Herrmann explained that this data is reported to the federal government. The report provides total expenditures for school districts across Colorado. The total expenditure amount (on page 109 of Attachment E) corresponds to the average per pupil number for the state, which is about $12,777 per pupil. This includes all expenses of a school district, she explained. Ms. Herrmann also stated that the total spending is about $9.8 billion, but the numbers exclude some factors. The commission continued discussing the per pupil cost of education in Colorado.
Ms. Neilson stated that spending more money per pupil does not necessarily produce better results. Mr. Jones agreed, and stated that looking at results is critical.
Representative Court asked whether a middle number exists for education funding. Senator Health explained the commission is trying to determine how much funding is required to maintain the status quo and achieve current results.
Ms. Herrmann stated that the General Assembly has set things in motion that cannot move forward, including additions to full day kindergarten. However, the school districts are making efforts to meet these goals with existing resources. The largest area of funding need, she said, would be to close gaps in categoricals. This would free monies currently being used for categoricals that are coming from existing programs, which is about $800 million. Senator Heath expressed his views about categoricals and commission discussion ensued. Ms. Herrmann said school districts could make more decisions. She and the commission members also discussed state and federal mandates.
Mr. Jones stated that looking at the funding for categoricals is worth exploring, and explained that school districts might benefit. The commission raised questions about special education, and Vice Chair Ferrandino said there are inadequate resources for special education. Ms. Herrmann stated that special education is under funded. Ms. Boigon agreed that the structure of special education funding should be a priority and it is not working well. She also shared her thoughts about how the state should make connections between its priorities and its ideals.
Discussion ensued between the commission and the panel about how to focus on priorities for education and how the state will fund these priorities.
Representative Ferrandino raised the question about paying teachers that have advanced degrees higher salaries, regardless of their level of performance. Mr. Turner stated that performance in the field should be linked. The commission continued discussing this issue with the panel.
Senator Health stated that the $800 million may be a mid-point for the conversation about education funding. He thanked the panel for its time and participation.
The commission recessed.