Working Group Reports
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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04:06 PM -- Working Group Reports
Representative Middleton asked each working group to report back to the full committee.
Formula Working Group: Senator Hudak reported that the group would like to see a new School Finance Act that is: equitable, sustainable, and predictable. She said the act should be student-based and reflective of fixed and variable costs and local differences and linked to the new standards. Senator Hudak said the new act should be phased in over time and include the ability to make adjustments for changes over time. She said the working group discussed differences between factors and categorical programs and discussed which items should fall into which category. The group decided, she said, that at-risk, size, and cost-of-living should be kept as factors. Senator Hudak said the group also discussed the possibility of equity in teacher salaries and whether technology should be a factor or a categorical program. She reported that the group decided that a framework should be put in place and phased-in over time. The group would need to work with the funding working group, she said, because if there were adequate funding, there might not be a need to change the formula. She said the group would also need to work with the working group studying at-risk. Senator Hudak explained that the group discussed whether special education and ELL should be factors or categoricals. She said the group noticed that factors do not apply to on-line education and that is an issue that needs to be considered. Statewide minimum funding keeps changing so districts don't know where they stand from month to month and year to year, she said.
Small and Rural Districts Working Group: Representative Massey reported that the working group talked about the fact that there are on-going efforts in the public and private sectors to bring broadband to rural districts and funding must be provided for these efforts. He said there are significant deficiencies in data reporting, student achievement, and professional development and rural districts are getting farther behind in the classroom because they cannot stay up-to-date with technology. Representative Massey said the group acknowledges that supplemental on-line is most cost effective model and expansion of supplemental on-line is the most effective thing they can do to bring an equity of programs to rural districts. He said there is a moral obligation to give kids in rural Colorado access to the same curriculum and programs as students in urban and larger school districts. He said the group discussed consolidation of administrative duties and technology. Representative Massey said BOCES are in place and can be encouraged to collaborate and share services. He discussed the lack of funding for BOCES. He reported that the group discussed the possibility of changing some requirements related to staff qualifications because it can be difficult to find people who meet the criteria to fill positions in rural parts of the state. Incentives for collaboration among districts, especially at the BOCES-level were also discussed, he said, as well as increased collaboration between districts and community colleges to expand opportunities for students. Finally, he explained that expansion of broadband access and supplemental on-line education are the two biggest issues to be considered in the short term.
At-Risk Working Group: Senator Johnston reported that there are five key questions for the group to focus on: 1) Do we continue to use free lunch eligibility to identify at-risk students? Should reduced-cost lunch be added as an identification tool? Should preschool factors or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or other proxy identifiers be added? 2) Do we want to establish an academic at-risk metric? How would it be measured? He said Senator Steadman will work with staff to put together a presentation on academic at-risk factors in other states and what other factors can be used to identify at-risk students. 3) Should the at-risk factor have to follow students to the school building? Senator Johnston said this question touches charter school funding and how charter schools should be funded for at-risk students. 4) Should we change the formula to add at-risk to the district pupil count instead of the statewide base? 5) How should the at-risk factor be balanced with other factors?
Funding Working Group: Senator Romer reported that the committee needs to signal to districts that $110 million will likely be rescinded and needs to discuss how the money would be rescinded. He reported that the working group also began a discussion about the mill levy freeze. Senator Romer said the group talked about the cliff effect and acknowledged that it will be significant, whether or not the state wins Race to the Top moneys. He said the committee and the working group need to work closely with the Fiscal Stability Committee to find a revenue patch while looking for a long term fix. Senator Romer also noted that the group talked about engaging school districts in the funding discussion.
Senator King said he would like the committee to have a discussion about a weighted student funding formula.
Representative Middleton provided information about what the committee's next meeting (July 27) would look like, saying there would be time for working groups to meet during the day. The committee discussed the meeting and the agenda.
The committee adjourned.