Pre-K through 12 Education
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
09:08 AM -- Education - Pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade
Commission members received a copy of a presentation prepared by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), which is included as Attachment A. Commissioner Dwight Jones began the presentation, stressing the importance of the Interim Commission to Study Fiscal Stability. He continued his conversation with a historical overview leading up to the current policy on Pre-K through 12th grade education. Commissioner Jones noted the presentation would cover spending issues as well as The Race to the Top.
Dr. Ken Turner, Assistant Commissioner, and Mr. Richard Wenning, CDE, came to the table to discuss the benefits from financial input. Dr. Turner provided a one-page handout about a vision for education in Colorado (Attachment B). Discussion ensued regarding how the legislature and policy help guide the opportunities for improvement to the Pre-K through 12th grade educational system, the incentives within the system, and the expectations and results.
Dr. Turner continued discussing approaches to view a child's progress. He addressed the first few slides that are included in Attachment A regarding the full implementation of Senate Bill 08-212, the Preschool to Postsecondary Education Alignment Act, and Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K). Dr. Turner explained that the cost of SB 08-212 only included funding for 2 years (last year and this current year). He noted it currently costs $15 million to run the system and that it will cost an additional amount to improve it. He discussed the Alternative Licensure Act (Senate Bill 09-160). He discussed the Colorado Growth Model, indicating that it is a good tool for instruction and assessment, and discussed the potential of expanding it to all schools. Dr. Turner then discussed high-leverage points such as performance-based funding and other systems, such as Ireland's system of incentivizing students, which is addressed in SB 09-256.
Mr. Rich Wenning continued the discussion on the importance of information and accountability, noting SB 09-163, The Educational Alignment Act. He pointed to www.schoolview.org, the CDE's new portal to view things such as the Colorado Growth Model. He noted the vision directed toward a state-wide database system to share practice techniques, lesson plans, and performance-based incentives. The system would allow teachers to search for other teachers' practices, papers, and other techniques. He noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expansion contribution of $2.5 million can be applied toward the State Longitudinal Data System, which will have a maintenance cost to the state of $3 million per year once implemented. Indiana and Massachusetts have already adopted this system. Mr. Wenning discussed the Colorado growth model and the State Longitudinal Data System, which will be able to track each child's progress through the educational system. Some school districts (Jefferson County) are already using the system. Currently, educators have access to the system, but soon parents will also have access.
Commission members presented questions to the panel. Representative Court asked, in regard to transients and the State Longitudinal Data System, if a child can be tracked throughout the state if the student changes locations. Mr. Coors asked about the usability of the data by parents. Mr. Wenning discussed the accountability factor of the system, including ratings for schools. The system has a parent report, in many languages, that gives parents the building blocks to guide questions. There are tables in School View that provide information on the progress of the schools and their students. He noted more accountability measures will be implemented in the future.
Mr. Knox asked about the incentives that take place when performance is not going well. Mr. Wenning explained that current state incentive funds are low, so incentives are coming from the districts. He suggested that once SB 09-163 is fully rolled out, more accountability will be apparent. Representative Court stressed the importance of the interaction between the districts and the state, so if a parent has a problem with one school, the parent can look toward another school in another district.
Mr. Jones continued the conversation noting the importance of parents' contributions towards school quality. Senator Brophy noted the progress of the state's educational system, but then redirected focus to the cost of the State Longitudinal Data System and the mission of the Long Term Fiscal Stability commission. Mr. Jones explained the costs of initiating and developing the system, noting the first $400,000 to $800,000 applied toward the initial development, but that costs will increase to continue the development of the system and to comply with federal rules.
Ms. Vody Herrmann, Assistant Commissioner of the CDE, came to the table to discuss some of the costs associated with the system. She pointed to the third slide in Attachment A regarding the Public School Finance Act of 1994. She noted the total state share is 63.6 percent and the local district share is 36.4 percent. The total amount spent per student is approximately $7,200. Senator Brophy noted that some districts spend more per student, indicating that additional money, such as school levy overrides, go into spending.
Ms. Herrmann continued the discussion with total state and federal funds distributed to school districts (slide 4 of Attachment A). Slide 5 of the presentation presents information on the total current expenditures per pupil, including the U.S. Average, the high and the low (New Jersey and Utah, respectively) and where Colorado ranks (at 40th) out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Senator Brophy suggested we do not know if we are comparing "apples to apples" and that we could be spending more per student than what we think. Ms. Herrmann stated that all states report the same data. She noted, however, that other states do have various local taxes that they apply toward education, and offered to pull more detailed data about what other states report. Mr. Fagen noted that, while local districts have some funding, it is the School Finance Act that will provide long-term funding.
Ms. Herrmann stated that the local school districts collect and report all of the data about revenue collected through all local sources, such as property tax, ownership tax, grants, etc. Representative Court explained that some districts are more wealthy than others, so some districts have more money per pupil than others. Dr. Knox commented that every school district has different requirements, and although the numbers can be correct, the data do not show the full measure of what is spent on education per student in K-12. Mr. Hume concurred, but noted the commission needs to focus on the results and costs of school funding.
Ms. Herrmann discussed state rankings of average teacher salary, enrollment, total funding, and funding per pupil. She explained the voter approval override, the general override, the full-day kindergarten override, and the transportation override. Ms. Herman continued discussing assessed values, teacher salaries, and mill overrides for the school districts. She discussed programs, such as the Exceptional Children's Education Act, English Language Proficiency Act, and other programs. Some of the programs have federally mandated requirements, some have state and federal mandated requirements, and some have little requirements, for example, transportation.
Ms. Boigon asked if the state and federal funding for programs could be broken out. Ms. Herrmann noted the federal share is 64 percent, with the remainder from the state. Ms. Herrmann continued to summarize the report, "Appropriations for New Programs or Expansions of Existing Programs" (within Attachment A). This portion of the report was prepared by the JBC and describes the outcome of various legislation. Senator Heath noted that construction dollars were taken out of school funding. Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) dollars are still going to school funding and help provide full-day kindergarten funding.
Ms. Herrmann discussed the estimated cost of an ideal educational system, beginning with a national move to increase teachers' salaries. Other priorities would be to provide full day kindergarten at all schools. In addition, she suggested the ideal educational system would provide half-day preschool to all 4 year-old children. It would also fund the Accelerating Students Through Concurrent Enrollment (ASCENT) high school program, a program that provides the opportunity for a student to graduate with an associates degree. Mr. Jones noted the strong relationship that high schools have with community colleges.
Mr. Jones noted that the concurrent enrollment helps keep students in school in both high school as well as college and increases college completion. Senator Brophy noted there are funding incentives to maintain the relationship between high schools and community colleges. He suggested the student benefits too, because there are several years of college the student does not have to pay for. While this program extends a child's K-12 education by one extra year, the student can achieve up to 60 credit hours to apply to college. He further explained that this program works, but it does cost the state money. Senator Brophy stressed this is one type of program that is successful. Ms. Herrmann suggested there will be an assessment to see how this program (from House Bill 09-1319 and Senate Bill 09-285) is continued. She continued to explain that, under the estimated cost of an ideal system, there is also consideration to extend the school calendar year. Ms. Herrmann explained the funding that would be required in terms of full time equivalents (FTE) to accommodate the half and full-day kindergarten programs. Mr. Hume asked about class size. Ms. Herrmann said that the Department of Education did look to reduce class size.
Ms. Herrmann presented information on the additional costs for full day kindergarten.
The commission recessed.
The commission reconvened.