Discussion of Draft Legislation
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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01:05 PM -- Discussion of Draft Legislation
Representative Middleton announced that the committee would be discussing 11 bill drafts, as well as two proposals from Senator Johnston. She clarified that the committee would review the legislation, take comments, and propose or suggest amendments, and would vote on the legislation at the October 22 meeting.
Bill 2 -- Representative Massey -- Extend Repeal of Supplemental On-Line (Attachment C). Representative Massey presented the bill, explaining that it removes the sunset of supplemental on-line education services. Senator Spence asked how much is spent on supplemental on-line each year, Representative Massey responded, noting that $500,000 is appropriated each year. Senator Bacon asked whether an evaluation of the program should be added. The committee discussed this issue, with Representative Merrifield noting that the program had recently been reviewed. Committee discussion on this issue ensued.
Bill 5 -- Representative Massey -- School Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (Attachment D). Representative Massey presented the bill, saying he would like to allow districts to use a waiver system, rather than watering down minimum requirements for speech-language pathology assistants. Bruce Caughey, Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), came to the table to speak to the bill. He expressed support for the use of waivers rather than the lowering of standards. Committee discussion ensued. Representative Merrifield suggested that the committee look at the number of higher education institutions in the state that provide speech-language pathology training. Mr. Caughey said there is a supply and demand mismatch, and commented that the proposed bill is an emergency fix. He said that addressing the number of programs training assistants is a long-term fix. Senator King asked whether any institutions offer associates degrees in the area of speech-language pathology. Senator Spence asked for clarification of the bill's tie-in with school finance under the committee's charge. Representative Middleton said the bill had come up after being identified as a high-need area with regard to special education. Representative Massey responded to Senator Spence's comments as well.
Bill 6 -- Representative Scanlan and Representative Massey -- Public School Transparency Financial Information On-Line (Attachment E). Representative Scanlan presented the bill, noting it allows a three-year phase-in period for requiring school districts to post financial information on-line. Representative Massey talked about time lines that had been discussed in the drafting of the proposal, noting that the time lines in the bill are appropriate. Committee discussion ensued. Senator King commented that monthly rather than quarterly financial statements would be easier to post. Representative Massey agreed that most districts do monthly rather than quarterly reports. Brita Darling, Office of Legislative Legal Services, came to the table to respond to committee questions about the proposal. Representative Merrifield said he has heard some concerns, though not major ones, with the bill. He said on-line schools should be included in the posting requirement and he asked how small districts that do not have websites would comply. Representative Massey responded, saying that smaller district could share websites. He also spoke to Senator King's earlier comments about monthly versus quarterly reporting. The committee discussed the proposal and the format of the on-line reports.
Committee discussion of Bill 6 continued, with further questions from Senator King around the items that would be required to be posted under the provisions of the bill. Conversation between Senator King and Representative Scanlan on these issued ensued. Representative Middleton suggested changing the language to require posting "at least quarterly." Representative Scanlan noted that the Financial Policies and Procedures Advisory Committee would recommend policies and procedures related to the format of the on-line reports. She responded to a question from Senator Bacon about the time lines created in the bill. Ms. Darling provided clarification to the question as well. Representative Benefield asked whether the bill would require posting of gifts, grants, and donations collected by the districts' foundations. Representative Middleton responded, saying those moneys would be reflected in districts' financial statements. Committee discussion of this issue ensued, with conversation around funds granted for restricted purposes and student activities accounts. The committee agreed that the bill would go forward, but the bill sponsors would work to address members' questions and concerns.
Jane Urschel, Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), came to the table to speak to the bill. She said CASB has a resolution coming before its assembly that will strongly support transparency. Melissa Callahan de Vita, Mesa Valley School District, also spoke to the bill. Ms. Callahan de Vita talked about her district's monthly and quarterly statements. She explained that general fund revenue is not currently included in statements.
Bill 7 -- Senator King -- Mill Levy Freeze Savings to State Education Fund (Attachment F). Senator King presented the bill. He spoke first about the solvency of the State Education Fund. He provided two handouts -- a memorandum from Legislative Council Staff dated June 18, 2009, and a memorandum from Joint Budget Committee Staff dated September 25, 2009 (Attachments G and H). Mr. Herreid came to the table to speak to the solvency of the State Education Fund. Conversation between Senator King and Mr. Herreid on the State Education Fund, the General Fund demands of education funding, and the School Finance Act ensued. Senator Bacon commented on the proposed shift of money to the State Education Fund. Senator Spence noted that shifting the funds to the State Education Fund would earmark the funds for educational purposes. Committee discussion of the bill ensued, with conversation around the choices that have to be made with regard to the budget. Senator Romer asked for clarification of the current situation with regard to the maintenance of effort provisions of Amendment 23 and commented that the current year might not be the year to make the proposed change. Conversation between Senators King and Romer ensued.
Bill 8 -- Representative Middleton -- School Finance Act Modifications (Attachment I). Representative Middleton presented the bill, which incorporates a number of changes she discussed at the committee's September 15 meeting. She first described the stable funding pilot program for small school districts created by the bill. Representative Massey said the bill incorporates the consolidation discussion as well. She responded to committee questions about the proposal, including one from Senator King about how the proposal differs from current averaging provisions. Representative Merrifield asked how the bill ties in with Bill 11.
Bill 11 -- Representative Massey -- Stable Funding for Small School Districts (Attachment J). Representative Massey explained that Bill 11 contains just the small district funding portion of Bill 8 and said that if Bill 8 is approved, Bill 11 will be unnecessary. Senator Bacon commented on the section of Bill 8 that directs funding to technology, saying he is reluctant to put more requirements into the pilot program. Representative Massey responded, saying the bill does not take the path of forced consolidations.
Bill 8 -- Representative Middleton -- School Finance Act Modifications (Attachment I) -- Continued.Representative Middleton explained the portion of Bill 8 that requires the specified allotment to technology. She responded to questions from Senator Bacon about these provisions. She continued, talking about the provisions of the bill that would provide additional resources to BOCES when there are more resources available. She also described the provisions expanding the definition of at-risk to include CPP-eligible students and noted that Senator Hudak suggested adding Head Start eligible students.
Dale McCall, Colorado BOCES Association, came to the table to speak to the BOCES funding section of Bill 8. He expressed concern about BOCES getting funding at the expense of member districts and said he supports a future trigger for the increased funding. Representative Middleton responded to his comments, explaining her intent. Mr. McCall commented that the BOCES are working to strengthen relationships with CDE. Representative Merrifield asked for further clarification of the provisions of the bill related to technology. Representative Massey noted that a professional development piece had been added as well. Senator Spence asked for clarification, which Representative Middleton provided, by explaining that the intent is not that districts set aside money for technology, rather that the state would provide funding for technology.
Committee discussion continued, with Senator King asking if the provisions addressing the definition of at-risk related only to the pilot program. Representative Middleton responded, saying only the small district funding piece is part of the pilot. Conversation between Representative Middleton and Senator King ensued. Representative Massey suggested clarifying the expansion of at-risk and said with that clarification he would be willing to pull Bill 11 in favor of Bill 8.
Bill 10 -- Representative Middleton -- Modifications to School Finance Administration (Attachment K). Representative Middleton explained that the bill includes the recommendations made by Vody Herrmann, Assistant Commissioner for School Finance at the CDE, of items that are obsolete or unfunded. Representative Middleton walked through each section of the bill and the committee discussed the provisions that would be repealed. Senator King suggested, and the committee agreed, that section 7 of the bill should be removed. Representative Merrifield suggested removing sections 8 and 9 from the bill as well, and the committee agreed. The committee also agreed to strike section 1 of the bill and they agreed that section 3 needed further investigation.
Bill 9 -- Senator Johnston -- Intent to Increase At-Risk Funding (Attachment L). Senator Bacon asked for a clear definition of the source of the increased funding. The committee agreed to set the bill aside because Senator Johnston was not in attendance at the meeting. The bill will be discussed at the October 22 meeting.
Bill 1 -- Senator Romer -- School Improvement Zones (Attachment M). Senator Romer presented the bill. He said a number of stakeholders believe the bill's goals can be accomplished without a bill, but said he feels the discussion is important. Senator Romer noted that there are concerns around governance and he said he believes significant grant funding may be available. Senator Spence made comments to the bill and said it is her view that it adds an additional layer of bureaucracy. She asked why a district would go this route rather than the innovative school route and she noted that the innovative school concept has buy-in from the teachers and the community. Senator Romer responded to these comments. Representative Massey expressed concern about the provisions requiring the state to pay salary and benefits for chief executive officers. Representative Merrifield said he does not believe the bill is necessary. Senator Romer responded to the committee's questions and comments and said he would take the proposal to the RtT committee. Representative Middleton talked about the different mechanisms for improving schools.
Bill 3 -- Senator King -- School Awards Program Fund (Attachment N).Senator King presented the bill, explaining that it would provide funding for school awards programs. Committee discussion of the bill ensued, with discussion of the Read-to-Achieve cash fund, which is identified as the funding mechanism in the bill. Senator King said he is happy to change the funding for the bill gifts, grants, and donations. Representative Benefield, a member of the Read-to-Achieve Board, expressed strong concern about using Read-to-Achieve funds for the bill.
Bill 4 -- Senator King -- Weighted Student Funding Formula Grants (Attachment O). Senator King explained that the bill provides a planning grant for districts to implement weighted student funding. Senator King responded to a question from Senator Spence regarding the funding of the grant program.
Representative Middleton described Senator Johnston's proposal concerning average daily membership (ADM), for which a bill has not been drafted (Attachment P). The committee discussed the proposal and the idea of using ADM. The committee agreed that a bill draft could be contemplated further at the October 22 meeting. Senator Spence asked for clarification of school districts' concerns with using ADM. Representative Middleton responded, referring back to the count date conversations at the committee's August 27 meeting.
Representative Middleton described Senator Johnston's proposal concerning at-risk funding following the child, for which a bill has not been drafted (see Attachment P). The committee discussed the proposal, with Senator King noting that it would drive a $5 million fiscal note. The committee discussed possible funding streams and agreed to review a bill draft at the October 22 meeting.
Representative Middleton explained that at the committee's meeting on October 22 there would be a presentation on the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) grant application and said the committee would vote on legislation and discuss other recommendations for the committee's final report.
The committee adjourned.