The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
The 2005 legislative session was relatively quiet on the subject of K-12 education, despite tension over changes to the state’s school accountability system between Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and the Colorado legislature, which was controlled for the first time in 40 years by Democrats
Lawmakers approved a $4.5 billion K-12 budget in fiscal 2006, a 2.6 percent increase over fiscal year 2005.
Legislators also hammered out a compromise on the state’s controversial Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1992 that restricts state spending and requires surplus funds to be returned to taxpayers. The bill has often conflicted with Amendment 23, which requires an increase in funding for K-12 education at a rate of 1 percent plus inflation.
Under the compromise, voters will be asked this fall if the state can keep a portion of the surplus to help finance precollegiate education, higher education, health care, and other areas.
Meanwhile, Gov. Owens stood by his promise to veto any legislation that threatened to weaken the school accountability measures he championed in 2000, including his veto of a measure to allow an independent contractor to review and report on the impact of the accountability system every three years.
Mr. Owens vetoed a record-high 47 bills, including several education bills. However, he approved bills that made modifications to educator licensing, provide for kindergarten for 5-year-olds, and encourage school districts to improve their nutrition policies.