Discussion of Draft Legislation
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
12:54 PM -- Discussion of Draft Legislation
Representative Middleton explained how the discussion would proceed. Representative Massey shared his bill concept regarding consolidation of services, and shared a handout with the committee on his bill proposals (Attachment D). He also discussed a bill concept regarding funding for supplemental on-line courses. Senator Spence commented on how incentives would be funded for consolidation and raised political issues surrounding consolidation. Discussion on this topic ensued between Representative Massey and Senator Spence. Senator King raised concerns about consolidating school districts while maintaining separate school boards. Representative Middleton noted that BOCES operate in a similar fashion.
Representative Middleton commented on Representative Massey's bill draft concept regarding consolidation, and presented an idea for incentivizing school districts, specifically that funding would be held harmless for school districts that consolidate services. Representative Scanlan offered a bill concept regarding transparency. She explained it would take a phased-in approach over a two-year period, with the goal of posting checkbook information and investment portfolios online. She noted that the smallest school districts would be exempted, specifically those with fewer than 500 students. Representative Massey explained large districts could post their purchasing card expenses.
Senator Spence asked where the transparency issue was left last session. Representative Middleton explained that the bill did not pass out of the House Education Committee. Representative Stephens shared her thoughts on the concept. Committee discussion ensued on the outreach that would be needed for school districts to be able to implement these requirements. Representative Scanlan noted that the department will come up with a standardized form for posting the information. Senator King shared his thoughts on standardizing the format, noting the expense incurred to school districts to purchase software. Representative Scanlan explained that there has been a preliminary survey of school districts, and the result was that they felt that $100 could convert Quicken to the standardized format, and cost was not an issue of concern. Representative Scanlan also addressed confidentiality issues with posting salaries and how that would be addressed in the bill.
Senator King shared a handout with committee members (Attachment E), concerning bill concepts on at-risk funding. He specifically referred to Appendices A, B, and C. He asked Todd Herreid, Legislative Council Staff, to explain the runs in more detail, specifically Appendix C. Mr. Herreid explained how he arrived at the data presented in Appendix C. Representative Merrifield asked where the funding is derived from to provide the proposed extra $150 per student.
Representative Middleton presented concerns about Senator King's bill concept, stating her preference to provide funding to schools who are needing assistance in teaching struggling students. She asked if he considered other incentives that are not financial in light of the current budget climate. She provided examples from the appendices. Representative Scanlan concurred with Representative Middleton's comments about using existing supports to improve struggling schools.
Senator Hudak stated that the accountability bill passed last session, Senate Bill 09-163, was enacted in order to implement incentives and support for struggling schools. Representative Merrifield expressed his support for putting money toward closing the achievement gap and limited funding should be directed there, as opposed to schools with students who are achieving. Senator Johnston stated that there are two issues: whether the concept is a good idea and whether it is a good use of resources with the current budget restraints. Representative Middleton noted that there are current grant programs to support these efforts. Senator Hudak explained that CDE conducted a study of schools that are high achieving and high poverty and have printed a best practices handbook from the information found in the study. Senator Hudak shared some of the recommendations that will come out of the education subcommittee of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force.
Representative Middleton shared a concept of Senator Romer's regarding school improvement zones, which could be multi-school and would focus on closing the achievement gap and school leadership. Senator Hudak explained that this concept is very similar to the proposal to be forwarded by the education subcommittee of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force. Representative Middleton provided illustrative examples of how the improvement zone might look, noting that the zone could be comprised of schools across school district lines.
Senator King asked Marc Carey, Legislative Council Staff, to discuss additional runs he requested from Legislative Council. Representative Merrifield stated that he does not see much difference between the different runs that Senator King requested, and said he opposes taking money from one school to give it to another. Committee discussion ensued on this topic.
Senator Spence sought clarification about the data in Table 1 of Attachment E. Senator King shared his thoughts behind requesting these runs. Representative Massey shared that the Race to the Top money could be used to share best practices across school districts. Representative Stephens suggested a meeting with Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission and the education subcommittee of the Poverty Reduction Task Force. Representative Middleton responded to Representative Stephens' comments, and noted that the at-risk issue is focused on urban and metro school districts and cautioned the committee to keep in mind the rural school districts.
Senator Hudak shared that the Poverty Reduction Task Force's education subcommittee is meeting on September 21.
Senator King presented another bill concept based on the John Irwin Schools of Excellence Award Program. He stated that he wants to create a reward system for schools that are achieving. Representative Massey agreed that a recognition system would be good, but not at the expense of other programs such as the Tony Grampsas program and family literacy program.
Julie Pelegrin, Office of Legislative Legal Services, explained the changes enacted under Senate Bill 09-163 to the award programs. Representative Middleton suggested that the committee ask the department what is currently available and what could be done differently.
Representative Middleton shared a bill concept that would define a small school district as fewer than 2,000 students, saying that funding would be held harmless as long as they agreed to consolidate services. She discussed another bill concept regarding a technology line item to provide hardware, professional development, software, and other technology needs, with the funding derived off the top at 50 cents to 75 cents per student.
Representative Middleton also discussed an concept regarding at-risk students maintaining Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) at-risk eligibility for an additional number of years. She noted that she was not sure how many students that would add to the at-risk population. She discussed a bill concept pertaining to the cost-of-living study, suggesting a shift from using a cost-of-living study to a cost-of-doing-business study. Representative Massey asked if housing would be separated from the basket of goods. A final concept she discussed was supporting intermediary agencies in a formulaic way. Senator Hudak explained that the education subcommittee of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force discussed the CPP issue as well. Representative Massey raised the issue of speech pathologists and the stringent education requirements and certification. Representative Scanlan concurred with exploring this issue. Senator Hudak explained that school districts may seek a waiver from the requirements.
The committee continued discussion of bill drafts, discussing intermediaries and how they operate. Senator Hudak explained that the funding goes to the regional service areas, which are comprised of multiple BOCES. Senator King raised the issue of student-based budgeting. Representative Middleton responded that she believes school districts could engage in this type of budgeting currently, and that it is not necessary for the state to intervene on that issue. Senator Spence sought clarification of whether it would be a requirement or a district option to participate in student-based budgeting. Senator King replied that he is not considering a statewide mandate. Senator Spence raised concerns about whether at-risk student funding following the student would be a disincentive for school districts because by increasing student achievement, the funding would be lost. Committee discussion ensued on this topic.
Representative Merrifield returned to the topic of speech pathologists, and noted that the University of Northern Colorado is the only school that offers the degree, and that could be a place to look for more information on speech pathologists.
Committee discussion ensued on the process for drafting bills. Senator Johnston discussed the possibility of increasing the at-risk weight over time and for charter schools to increase the number of at-risk students served. Senator Steadman also raised concerns with writing the school finance act now.
Mr. Pelegrin reviewed the discussion of draft legislation, recapping that the following members requested bills to be drafted on the following topics for the October 1 meeting:
- Representative Massey - consolidation, supplemental online, and speech pathologist authorization;
- Representative Scanlan - transparency;
- Senator King - creating awards for schools and encouraging student-based budgeting with a planning grant;
- Representative Middleton - one bill containing: small district changes; inclusion of cost-of-doing-business study; technology line item; maintaining CPP at-risk eligibility; and intermediary agencies;
- Senator Johnston - increasing the weight for at-risk and extending at-risk adjustment to all charter schools; and
- Senator Romer - school improvement zones.
Representative Scanlan stated that the state needs to review how education is funded, specifically speaking to mill levies. Representative Middleton responded to her comments on this issue. Representative Massey discussed how difficult it is for small school districts to raise money. Representative Benefield expressed concerns about the bill concepts presented, noting that the bills suggested are bills that could be normally run in the course of a legislative session. She raised concerns about the cost-of-living study and the lack of discussion about the formula. Representative Middleton responded to her comments. Senator King and Senator Steadman also responded to Representative Benefield's comments regarding the committee's discussion of bill drafts.