The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 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 Colorado legislature increased the K-12 education budget by $313 million, set a property tax floor for state residents, and strengthened accountability measures during this year’s session.
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The 9.2 percent budget increase will bring next year’s total up to $3.7 billion. The money will go toward a 4.6 percent increase in state per-pupil spending for the 2007-08 school year, bringing the total to $5,088 for each student. The budget also provides additional funding for full-day kindergarten and will open more slots for preschoolers.
During the legislative session, which wrapped up on May 4, first-year Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., a Democrat, won passage of a controversial measure that will freeze plunging property taxes in Colorado, preserving an estimated $47.4 million in funding that otherwise would have been lost for school districts. The new law strikes a section in the School Finance Act of 1994 that requires school districts to lower property taxes annually. The bill passed the House and the Senate, which are dominated by Democrats, on party lines and was supported by 175 out of 178 school districts.
“By taking action during this legislative session, lawmakers averted a fiscal calamity,” Gov. Ritter said in a statement. Without the change to the bill, “the State Education Fund [would have been] broke in 2011,” he concluded.
The lawmakers also approved a new method to measure student achievement. It allows schools to compare test scores from one class of students with scores from the same group of students one year later, as opposed to comparing scores with a previous class.
In addition, the legislators strengthened accountability measures by reconciling Colorado’s state and local testing requirements with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2007 edition of Education Week