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Colorado Bill Clarifies Authority, Independence of Private Schools

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The 1983 Colorado legislature, which adjourned last week, passed a bill that spells out the limitations of public control over private schools.

Reporting requirements for Colorado's private schools have not been extensive in the past, according to Patricia Burger, a legislative analyst in the state education department.

Private schools have not been required to have state accreditation or state-certified teachers, but have had to report attendance records to local districts, she said.

The new bill does not change that, but clearly states that the state board of education and local boards do not have jurisdiction over the internal affairs of independent or parochial schools.

'Basic Academic Education'

The bill also contains a provision that private schools in Colorado must ensure that students are enrolled for a minimum of 172 days in a program that provides a "basic academic education"--defined in the bill as a program including "reading, writing and speaking, mathematics, history, civics, literature, and science".

The bill provoked some of the heaviest lobbying during the legislative session, Ms. Burger said. Governor Richard D. Lamm had not signed it as of last week.

The legislature also lowered the allowable amount of increase in school districts' "authorized revenue base"--the maximum annual amount a district may spend in general operating expenses per pupil--from $175 per year per pupil to $160.

School districts can apply for supplemental increases in their authorized revenue base to the state's budget review board, but the legislature also limited the total increase the board can grant to districts statewide to $1 million next year.

In the past, Ms. Burger said, the board has allowed districts across the state as much as $20 million in supplemental increases.

These increases, if allowed by the budget review board, are generated by local tax levies.

The legislature also said that in the future school districts could go directly to the voters if they wish to increase their authorized revenue base by raising local tax levies.

In the past, a district had to go to the budget review board first.--ah

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