STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
|09:07 AM to 03:46 PM
|This Meeting was called to order by
|This Report was prepared by
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
All materials referred to in this summary are available on the web athttp://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?c=Page&cid=1244045240660&pagename=CGA-LegislativeCouncil%2FCLCLayout.
|Call to Order
Count Date Options
School District Perspective on Count Date
School District Perspective on Administration of SFA
Presentation on Online Learning
Review of School District Reporting Statutes
Working Groups Convene
Reports from Working Groups
09:08 AM -- Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by the Chair, Representative Middleton. She provided an overview of the day's agenda. She announced that there would be an informal meeting in Alamosa on September 18, to hear from districts and boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES), and explained that the agenda for that meeting has not yet been set. She also announced an informal meeting to be held on September 8 in Summit County. She said the meeting would include a conversation about transparency and school finance issues in the region.
09:12 AM -- Count Date Options
Vody Herrmann, Colorado Department of Education (CDE), came to the table to speak to the CDE's position on multiple count dates. CDE provided a memorandum containing background information, as did the Colorado Children's Campaign (Attachments A and B, respectively). Ms. Herrmann noted that in 1992-1993 there were two count dates -- October 1 and February 1 -- and explained that the following year, the dates were shifted to October 1 and February 15. The next year, she said, the CDE returned to the previous practice of one count date on October 1.
Ms. Herrmann talked about average daily attendance information currently collected by the CDE. She explained that average daily attendance statewide is about 93.5 percent of the October count. She said average daily membership data is also available. Ms. Herrmann said moving to a second count date would allow districts to count students received after October 1. She remarked that districts with a heavy military presence often gain students after October 1, which is why there is a military count date in February, though, she explained, that count date has only been funded in one year. Ms. Herrmann also commented that a second count date might result in districts working harder to keep enrollment up after the October 1 count date.
Ms. Herrmann stressed the point that an additional count date would place an additional burden on districts and CDE staff. She explained that collecting count information takes a couple of months, and that in the current economic climate, districts might be unable to add staff to handle a second count date.
Ms. Herrmann responded to committee questions. Representative Massey talked about issues faced in rural districts because of when the count date falls, and asked if there is a way to deal with kids who are absent on October 1 without adding a second count date. Ms. Herrmann explained that there is 30-day window in place to deal with these kinds of issues. Senator Johnston asked about the possibility of a headcount date during CSAP testing to keep districts honest about who they are counting. Ms. Herrmann said the CDE supports a second count date, but not during this difficult economic time. Senator Romer asked how many districts use Infinite Campus or a similar enrollment system. Ms. Herrmann said she would have to get that information for him. Senator Romer talked about issues faced by schools with very high mobility rates. Representative Middleton responded to the discussion, mentioning Race to the Top and other federal funds that might be used to relieve the burden on districts from a data collection standpoint. She said she wants to create incentives for improving attendance.
Ms. Herrmann responded to Representative Middleton's comments, saying with open choice across the state, district lines have been blurred. She commented that students may be enticed to attend a school across a district line that, after the October 1 count date, releases the student so the student ends up back in his or her district of residence. A second count, she said, would be helpful in these circumstances. She responded to additional committee questions, including one from Senator Romer about consequences and rewards related to retaining students and the possibility of using existing data systems for these purposes.
09:29 AM -- School District Perspective on Count Date
The committee heard from a panel of school district administrators and board members who provided their perspective on the count date issue.
Cheryl Serrano, Superintendent of Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, introduced herself. She talked about the second count date in February for military children, explaining that it is not full-blown second count. She explained that Colorado has adopted the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and talked about how the compact impacts the count date discussion. She talked about the work that is involved in performing the count, saying it is very complex, even for districts that use Infinite Campus and other computer systems. She said the count takes as long as six weeks to perform. Representative Middleton asked for a snapshot of the count process and asked why the count takes six weeks. Dr. Serrano explained the count process, and the items that need to be in place for an audit, mentioning verification of free and reduced lunch eligibility, letters to parents and districts to track down students, and other information that must be collected. Each student, she explained, has different identifiers that must be verified. Dr. Serrano responded to committee questions, including a question from Representative Middleton, who asked if there are regulatory burdens that could be eased. Senator King asked about the count date for federal impact dollars. Conversation between Senator King and Dr. Serrano around counting military students and federal impact funding ensued.
Senator Johnston asked Dr. Serrano to describe how the best possible count system would be designed. Dr. Serrano said a statewide system, like the system used in Texas, into which districts would input information, would make the count quicker, but not cheaper. Dr. Serrano went on to talk about budgets and the difficulties that might be caused if money was lost mid-year. She said it is important to not disincentivize districts from serving difficult students. She talked about the number of students lost late in the school year due to military deployments, and talked about issues around out-of-district students. She responded to a question from Senator King about the impact of a second count date, saying many districts have a lower count in February.
Ranelle Lang, Superintendent of Weld County School District 6, introduced herself. She said it would be enormously expensive for districts to add a second count date. Dr. Lang said her district hires a full-time, full-year employee to manage the count. She explained that the count is so complex that not having a person dedicated to the it would result in a large loss of money. She talked about the audit process, saying if the same process was repeated later in the year, it would be a large administrative burden. Dr. Lang remarked that it is a myth that the count would be very different in a second count. She explained that in the last school year, the district lost 41 students between the October 1 count date and February, and lost 71 by March. Dr. Lang talked about charter schools in her district, and said only six students moved from a charter to a non-charter in the district last year. She talked about the complexity of using attendance as a count, speaking specifically about the impact on attendance of flu and parent-excused absences. She said making sure there is consistency in the count across the state would be very challenging, and said additional funding would be needed to support an additional count date. She stated that October 1 is a good time in the school year for the count to be performed.
Senator Bacon asked about differences in attendance at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Representative Middleton said elementary school attendance correlates very closely with the high school drop out rate. Dr. Lang said there is a drop in attendance on a monthly basis that differs at each school level. She talked about how rapidly students disengage when they do not attend school. Senator Johnston described how he managed count date as a school principal, and asked about the data points that are collected that necessitate a full-time employee. The panelists responded, providing a list of the data points that are collected, and talking about the administrative burden at the school level, versus the administrative burden at the school district level. Discussion around these issues continued. Senator King asked whether collecting all the data points is absolutely necessary. Discussion with the panelists ensued.
Bruce Broderius, Board of Education President, Weld County School District 6, talked about board hiring practices and how those practices align with the count date. He explained that losing five students does not translate to districts losing a teacher or classroom. Dr. Broderius also talked about issues around audits that happen two years out.
Sandy Rotella, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations at Adams County School District 50, talked about the student population in her district and its mobility rate. She made additional points about the complexity of the October count, talking about challenges faced by districts. She said a student plus seat time equals money, which limits school districts in how they can be creative to meet students' needs. She talked about the audit process and responded to Senator King's earlier question about what data is necessary. Ms. Rotella related the importance of incentives as opposed to deterrents. Ms. Rotella talked about the number of students who graduate at semester, and the impact that would have if there were a second count date. She said the district loses 300 to 500 students each year, and explained some of the reasons those students leave and how school district staff tries to find out where those students end up.
David Hart, Chief Financial Officer of the Douglas County School District, said his core issue is adequate funding. He asked what problem would be solved by multiple count dates. Mr. Hart talked about the growth of his district and the reasons pupil count might drop after the first count date. Mr. Hart explained that pupil count efforts in his district start in September and that, due to the district's large population, they run year-around schools, so 10 percent of students are out of school on any given date. He talked about the different connotations related to count date and count audits. He expressed concern about the administrative impacts of a February count date. Mr. Hart talked about when hiring decisions take place, and the challenges around adjusting staffing mid-year.
Melissa Callahan de Vita, Chief Financial Officer at Mesa County Valley School District 51, talked about her district, saying the district does not have a lot of issues around students moving mid-year. Ms. Callahan de Vita said the district count decreases about 1.5 percent between the October count date and the end of the school year. She discussed why the decrease might happen. She said the impact of a second count date would be about $500,000, and talked about what that would mean in terms of the budget if the district lost money based on a second count date. Ms. Callahan de Vita talked about the issues that impact student attendance. She talked about the idea of time as a variable, saying schools in her district are open until 11 p.m. to allow students who work to attend school and obtain a high school diploma. She encouraged the committee to look at funding time. Senator Romer talked about accountability at the school level. Conversation between Ms. Callahan de Vita and Senator Romer on these issues ensued.
Walt Cooper, Superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, said his district grows throughout the school year. He explained that his district continues to accept students through the choice process after the October 1 count date, even though the statute allows districts to refuse, because he hopes they will stay and be counted the next school year.
Glenn McClain, Superintendent of the Platte Valley School District, said the October count is laborious, and remarked that it requires everyone in the district to pitch in to finish the count. He said the data collected is needed by someone, either at the state or federal level. He identified two separate issues: attendance and count for funding. He talked about complicating factors for small districts, particularly districts that are members of BOCES. Senator King asked about early graduating students, and asked whether those students are offered concurrent enrollment choices in their second semester. Dr. Serrano responded, saying her district encourages students not to graduate, but to utilize concurrent enrollment. She said once students graduate, the district cannot continue to serve them. Committee discussion on this issue ensued.
The committee took a brief recess.
The committee came back to order.
10:51 AM -- School District Perspective on Administration of School Finance Act
Dr. Serrano said it is important not to disincentivize districts that are trying to do difficult work. She talked about challenges in getting students back in school, whether they are in-district students or out-of-district students. She said a lot of things in the formula can be deterrents to districts trying to do good things. Dr. Serrano said a membership count is the best way to handle budgets, and attendance should be addressed in other ways. Representative Merrifield asked Dr. Serrano to talk about the School Finance Act. Dr. Serrano said the act is based on historical data from when districts were not funded at an adequate level. She said the data should be looked at again, she specifically mentioned the cost-of-living study. The differences in funding between districts, she said, do not make sense. Representative Middleton talked about the drop out issue.
Senator Johnston asked panelists to comment on using a membership count instead of an attendance count. He said no one is looking at taking dollars away from districts, and he mentioned the possibility of a statewide count system. Senator Johnston said one goal is to make the current count system easier, and another is to make sure there is not data that needs to be captured that is not being captured under the current system. Dr. Serrano responded to Senator Johnston's comments, and committee conversation on these issues ensued.
Dr. Lang said the timing of the passage of the School Finance Act is problematic because district negotiations with employees begin in January or February. She said it would be easier for districts to talk to employees if it was certain that money would not be there instead of, as was the case this year, the possibility that 1.9 percent of the district's funding might have to be reverted. Dr. Lang said the formula causes difficulty in her district because the factors are included in the formula. She provided information on the number of students enrolled in charter schools in the district. She talked about how those numbers impact at-risk funding, saying there are fewer free-lunch eligible and English language learner (ELL) students in traditional schools than in charter schools in the district. Dr. Lang said her district is the only district that has not gone to voters for a mill levy override, but said the district is asking for one now. She talked about community perceptions about what schools need and commented that money does matter greatly to students.
Representative Middleton talked about the possibility of tying money to students based on Dr. Lang's comments about the charter school population, and asked if Dr. Lang is interested in seeing funding going in that direction. Dr. Lang responded, talking about where the money goes in her district. Conversation between Dr. Lang and Representative Middleton ensued. Senator Romer responded to Dr. Lang's comments about the mill levy override, saying the gap is expanding between the haves and the have-nots because of overrides. He talked about the amount of money needed to get kids where they need to be, and talked about the importance of engaging the business community.
Representative Massey raised concerns that the model is built on backfilling by mill levy overrides, which was based on increasing assessed valuations. He said the model will cause problems going forward. Dr. Boderius talked about challenges around the two funding mechanisms that work together -- base funding and categoricals -- saying this model causes inconsistencies. Dr. Boderius talked about phantom students being funded under the current system, talking specifically about charter school funding for schools established before and after 2004-2005. Senator Bacon asked for clarification of Dr. Boderius' comments related to charter school funding before and after the 2004-2005 school year, which Dr. Boderius provided. Senator King talked about the law related to charter schools chartered by the State Charter School Institute.
Representative Merrifield asked for further information about charter school funding, which was provided by Senator King. Conversation on issues around charter school funding ensued.
Ms. Rotella said the formula has been problematic from the beginning, and remarked that it is not certain that the problem is the formula itself, but perhaps the issue is that there is not adequate funding. She said communities -- wealthy and poor -- face similar challenges. She said the issue of money following the child requires further exploration, and she talked about difficulties around how to follow students who move or leave. She said those challenges are why districts use an FTE model. Ms. Rotella talked about her district's challenges in responding quickly enough in a community with limited resources. She talked about adjusting to the needs of a new population of students. She said the one charter school in the district does not change the overall demographics.
Mr. Hart said the on-going conversation is about adequacy as much as it is about revenues and expenditures. Historically, he said, the conversation was on state and local revenues. The mill levy override component, he said is the second part of the system, and was meant to be supplemental, but has become a way to get to adequate funding, not to enhance programs. He talked about the impact of moving money from one categorical to another. He talked about cuts made and the 1.9 percent that will likely be reverted in January. Mr. Hart noted that this is not seen as a one-time loss. Mr. Hart said education is a statewide concern, and is critical infrastructure. He said districts are doing everything they can to keep cuts out of the classroom, but in the current climate, he will have to look into schools for reductions. He also touched upon the definition of at-risk, saying there are other criteria that should be considered. Mr. Hart said the story in each district is different, but there are similarities with regard to adequacy.
Ms. Callahan de Vita said the fact that cost-of-living is applied only to personnel costs is an issue, saying it should be applied on a broader basis. She said it has increased the gap between districts' funding levels. She said the categorical versus formula issue needs to be looked at, because categoricals dictate where the funding must be spent. Ms. Callahan de Vita said she is already budgeting for the next school year, and that cuts will have to come out of personnel because 85 percent of funds go to the school buildings. She said cuts going forward will have impact at the school level.
Mr. Cooper said administration of school finance cannot be separated too far from pupil count. He said focus on minimums is problematic. Mr. Cooper talked about at-risk, speaking specifically to gifted and talented students, saying funding matters for all districts and all kids.
Mr. McClain said the issue with school finance is adequacy. He said the needs of the students must be addressed as they happen. Senator Johnston asked Mr. Cooper to talk about allocating resources among different types of students. Conversation ensued, with Mr. Cooper talking about the needs of the child. Representative Middleton talked about investing in infrastructure to help every child move forward. She said the idea is to create a formula that works, so that when adequate funding can be provided, it can be plugged in. Senator Romer spoke to issues of adequacy and the policy and politics around the discussion.
Representative Middleton announced that the review of district reporting statutes would be delayed until after the lunch presentation. Representative Merrifield reiterated that the committee is not interested in "robbing Peter to pay Paul." He thanked the panelists for the job they do every day. Senator King said the James Irwin Excellent School Awards should be funded within the School Finance Act, and he asked the panelists to comment. Mr. Cooper responded, saying the loss of funding for James Irwin is another signal that the focus is on the bottom. Senator Bacon said education is a component of the greater society, and commented on all the issues families, children, and society faces.
Senator Romer said he believes a wider conversation needs to take place making outcomes a part of the formula and recognizing adequacy of funding as an issue. Representative Massey commented on issues faced by rural Colorado.
The committee took a brief recess.
12:20 PM -- Presentation on Online Learning
Gordon Freedman, representing the Blackboard Institute, presented to the committee on "From an Education Pipeline to Cycles of Learning" (Attachment C). Mr. Freedman asked for clarification on the interim committee process. Representative Middleton explained how the interim committee interacts with the education committees that meet during the legislative session. Mr. Freedman explained the mission of Blackboard, and his role within the company. He noted that education is at a crossroads with technology and described three perspectives: K-12, community college, and workforce and training.
Mr. Freedman reviewed the national education agenda as described by James H. Shelton, the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. The core of the national agenda for the Obama administration, he noted, is to increase the number of citizens attaining a postsecondary credential. He also noted the changes in technology in communication, transportation, and education, contrasting that the education technology has not changed with the same speed.
Mr. Freedman talked about the difference made by districts in the U.S., saying that many other countries have a national funding source. He spoke next to education cycles, which replace the traditional education pipeline. He said the rigid lines between education institutions make less and less sense, thus bending the rigid pipeline into a circle is necessary. Mr. Freedman outlined the characteristics of an ideal education system, including: modular competency-based instruction; a system that supports multiple exit and entry paths; student flexibility and choice in learning; removal of barriers; more effective teachers; individual student records through the student's lifetime plus tracking data; keeping pace with technology students use; national standards; realignment of incentive systems for institution and administrators; and new ways to finance the educational system.
Representative Massey asked about addressing reintegration of students who have left the system and return after a number of years. Mr. Freedman responded, providing information about how that might look. He identified three issues that need to be addressed: dual enrollment; model redesign; and public awareness. Representative Middleton asked Mr. Freedman to talk about whether states have figured out how to bridge gaps between institutions.
Mr. Freedman talked about nationally funded and foundation funded projects, including school district online parent access and support. He provided information on state-level provision of online courses, speaking specifically to the models in Michigan and New Mexico.
Mr. Freedman continued his presentation, talking about the design of the U.S. public school system, and how the design needs to change to meet today's challenges. He said current reform efforts are work-arounds, not reforms. He talked about the need to broaden the conversation to move to making students a part of learning and making materials accessible. Representative Massey asked about creating incentives for parents to increase student engagement. Mr. Freedman responded, saying parents need access to information on the web that is well thought out and easy to use.
Mr. Freedman made three assertions: we need to go from one teacher for 30 students to five resources for every one student; we need to think about alternative delivery systems (from teacher and classroom only to mixed, blended, and network delivery); and we need to move from a set curriculum for every to student to individualized connections to knowledge. He said we need to fix the system we have today, while we design the system needed for tomorrow.
Mr. Freedman responded to committee questions. Senator Spence asked him to comment on the New Mexico program and where it is today. Representative Middleton talked about the work of the P-20 Council, and talked about challenges around bringing the K-12 and higher education systems together. Mr. Freedman responded to her comments, saying the business community needs to be brought in, both as business leaders and as parents and employers of parents.
01:05 PM -- Review of School District Reporting Statutes
Ms. Herrmann came to the table to describe school district reporting statutes related to public school finance. She provided a handout listing the requirements she felt should be removed or waived (Attachment D), which she walked through with the committee. First she talked about reports related to taxpayer incentive agreements. She responded to a question from Senator Spence about these agreements, and conversation on this issue ensued. Ms. Herrmann clarified that the two agreements still in existence end in 2010-2011.
Next, Ms. Herrmann described the report regarding authorization of additional local revenues. She responded to committee questions about the report. She spoke next to the report on state matching funds related to the National School Lunch Act, and the report required of declining enrollment districts with new charter schools. Next, she discussed the report related to military dependent supplemental pupil enrollment aid. She responded to committee questions about this report and the aid program.
Ms. Herrmann continued, describing the report related to the Charter School for the Deaf and the Blind and the provision requiring school districts to file their budgets with the CDE. The report related to capital construction state aid for charter schools was described next. She proposed a modification to the statute that would allow the money to be distributed more quickly. Representative Massey asked Senator King to comment on the report and the aid program. Committee conversation on this provision ensued.
Next, Ms. Herrmann discussed the report related to the full-day kindergarten facility capital construction fund and the certification for distribution from the State Public School Fund and eligibility determination impact. She responded to committee questions. Representative Stephens talked about the importance of looking at these issues with a long term view.
Senator King asked Ms. Herrmann to provide clarification to earlier committee discussion around funding for charter schools opened after fiscal year 2004-2005. Committee discussion with Ms. Herrmann on this issue ensued.
01:34 PM -- Working Groups Convene
Representative Middleton explained that working groups would convene and should work from the charges prepared for them (see agenda for working group charges). The committee recessed for the groups to meet.
02:56 PM -- Reports from Working Groups
The committee came back to order to hear reports from working groups.
At-Risk Working Group: Senator Johnston reported that the working group talked about what "at-risk" means, i.e. what are students are "at-risk" of? How does the understanding of "at-risk" change the effectiveness of free lunch as a proxy? He also said the group discussed using the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) proxies, but recognized that there would be administrative challenges. He said the group should study the overlap between the CPP variables and free-lunch eligibility. The group agreed that it is important to find ways to support schools that are successful, he said. Senator King suggested incentives for schools beyond at-risk funding.
Senator Johnston responded to committee questions, including one from Representative Middleton about whether CPP students should be considered at-risk. He said the group's discussion was around extending the CPP factors to other students. He said the group wants to research how CPP factors overlap with free lunch and whether using CPP proxies would identify more students as at-risk. Representative Middleton said instead of changing weights, the group should look at phasing in additional money.
Rural and Administrative Efficiencies Working Group: Representative Massey reported that the group heard from EagleNet, a public/private internet access partnership to provide broadband expansion. Handouts related to the EagleNet presentation may be found in Attachment E. They also heard from Colorado On-Line Learning, he said, and they had a discussion about supplemental online as a way to provide equal access to students. He said supplemental online is beneficial to all districts, particularly to rural districts. Representative Massey said money is well-directed to BOCES, which provide important services, and BOCES need additional funding so they can be in a position to offer more shared services. He said the group also discussed how to incentivize teachers to come to rural districts, and said some incentives may be possible without additional money.
Funding Formula Working Group: Representative Middleton reported that the formula group talked about treating smaller and larger districts differently, and discussed setting a base for districts with fewer than 2,000 students in order to stabilize funding. She said the group discussed adjusting the current factors or adding a new factor. Representative Massey added that the Rural and Administrative Working Group talked about consolidation of administrative services. Representative Middleton explained that her group talked about using classroom units for funding in small districts, giving districts some ability to plan. They also discussed how to deal with declining enrollment in larger districts and the factor of time, she said. Representative Middleton reported that the group discussed using the cost of doing business as a factor instead of cost of living. She told the committee about the group's discussion around addressing technology, saying adding it to the factors is a possibility. She clarified that if a prioritization is necessary, technology is less important than ELL, at-risk, or special education. Representative Massey talked about what the cost-of-living factor applies to, saying it should be expanded to apply to operations in general. Representative Middleton reported that the working group talked about supplemental online, and said there are some things that could possibly be phased in as money became available.
New Funding Working Group: Senator Romer reported that the group met with Senator Heath and Representative Ferrandino, co-chairs of the Fiscal Stability Commission. He said they discussed the fact that there need to be new funding sources prior to 2011. He said the Fiscal Stability Commission will meet on October 1, and will discuss education at that meeting. Senator Romer said the Fiscal Stability Commission is not yet focusing on how to protect K-12 education. Senator Romer, speaking for himself, not the working group, suggested that the committee look at the tax credits on the books to see how the education funding hole can be plugged. He reported that he got the sense from Representative Ferrandino that K-12 would be at risk in the 2010-2011 budget year. Senator Romer responded to committee questions, including a question from Representative Massey about grant-based funding for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Representative Middleton commented on New Mexico's P-20 council and how it has engaged the business community, saying it is a model that Colorado might want contemplate.
03:29 PM -- Next Meeting
Representative Middleton asked the committee if there are topics they would like to discuss at the next committee meeting. She noted that Representative Massey would like to hear a lunch presentation from EagleNet. She said that special education and response to intervention would be on the next agenda.
The committee discussed the process for requesting bills, with Representative Middleton clarifying that bills should be requested at the September 15 meeting. Julie Pelegrin, Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS), came to table to speak to the bill request process. Ms. Pelegrin said OLLS will need information to draft bills on September 15 or sooner so that they can be distributed to the committee for review prior to the October 1 meeting. The committee discussed the bill process and asked questions of Ms. Pelegrin.
Senator King talked about an idea he had around at-risk funding, referring to a memo estimating the cost of creating an incentive funding program for at-risk students (Attachment F). Senator Johnston commented as well, saying there is consensus around the idea in the At-Risk Working Group.
Senator Romer asked the committee's opinion about a bill creating a business council that would make a recommendation on sources for matching dollars for Race to the Top if the state wins Race to the Top. The committee discussed the issue, as well as the issue of supporting EagleNet's proposal.
The committee adjourned.