Reports from Working Groups
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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 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.