Colorado OKs Plan To Spend Extra School Aid

By Mark Walsh — April 11, 2001 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A spirit of compromise has pervaded the chambers of the Colorado legislature lately, as its members have deliberated over two major education spending bills.

In recent weeks, lawmakers have come to relatively easy agreement on the annual school finance bill and on a measure that would carry out a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing greater spending on public education over the next 10 years.

The school finance situation “is better this year than it has been in decades,” said Phil Fox, the lobbyist for the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Late last month, both houses passed a $3.8 billion school spending bill that would provide a 6 percent increase in general-fund appropriations. The measure would increase funding for textbooks and academically at-risk students; create a pilot full-day-kindergarten program; and, for the first time, provide a state contribution to the school lunch program.

And in a big victory for charter schools in Colorado, the legislature included some $5.3 million for charter school construction and a guarantee that charters can participate in bond issues of their local school districts.

Lobbyists for traditional public school groups did not mind the state money being set aside for charter schools’ capital needs, but they were disappointed about the ability of the publicly funded but administratively independent schools to participate in district bond issues.

“Most of us are fairly uptight about that,” Mr. Fox said. “It’s going to screw up the election process and the bonding process.”

Jane Urschel, the associate executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said the inclusion of charter schools would raise the amount of the bond issues and potentially put them at greater risk of defeat at the polls.

“It will make it harder to pass bond issues,” she predicted.

The charter issue raises questions that aren’t answered in the legislation, such as what happens to a charter school built with bond money if the sponsor loses its educational charter, Ms. Urschel added.

Advocates for charter schools argued during the debate that charters are public schools also, and that they have generally lacked the access to capital that regular public schools have.

A Russian Novel?

The school finance bill was passed March 29, several days after the legislature gave final approval to a bill to implement Amendment 23, a state constitutional amendment adopted by voters last year.

The amendment requires the state to increase funding for public schools at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent over each of the next 10 years. The amendment also establishes a state education fund separate from the general fund, with dedicated annual contributions of one-third of 1 percent of the revenues from the state income tax. The fund is expected to accumulate $4.58 billion over 10 years.

Earlier in the legislative session, lawmakers disagreed over some of the details of the bill that would implement Amendment 23, such as whether to make class-size reduction mandatory. That idea was favored by Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican. (“Colorado Leaders Clash Over How To Spend Extra Money,” Feb. 14, 2001.)

The compromise bill says Colorado’s schools districts could spend the extra money as they wished as long as it was used to improve education and as long as districts studied the option of reducing class sizes.

“The bottom line is, districts got their flexibility to use the dollars as they want, and the governor got his rhetoric on class size,” Ms. Urschel said. “Districts can now use the money for teacher salaries, or class-size reduction, or to pay their utility bills, if they want.”

Compromise on school finance measures has been facilitated this session by the first Democratic majority in the Colorado Senate in 40 years, she added.

“Compromise has been spelled with a big C,” she said.

Amendment 23 is the “hero” of the school finance story this year, Ms. Urschel said.

“School finance is like a Russian novel,” she said. “It’s long, boring, and in the end, everybody dies. But with Amendment 23, things happened that would not have been possible in other years.”

But not everyone was enthusiastic about sharply increased spending. Sen. Norma Anderson, a Republican and a longtime legislative advocate for public education, said she feared the state was increasing spending too much this year, which would have the effect under Amendment 23 of driving up future spending at a faster pace. She voted against the school finance bill, stating on the Senate floor that “we’re spending like drunken sailors.”

“Amendment 23 was intended to bring us back to where we should be on school spending, not to be spent all at once,” she said in an interview last week. The school finance bill, she said, is “a budget buster.”

Gov. Owens, meanwhile, has signaled he will sign both bills.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2001 edition of Education Week as Colorado OKs Plan To Spend Extra School Aid


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Pivoting to Remote Learning: Why It Is Harder in Some States Than Others
In calling the shots on the switch back to remote instruction, states have very different rules, an Education Week analysis finds.
8 min read
Macy Schulman, left, and Mason Yeoh, both students at Fairfield Warde High School, carry pro-remote learning signs during a rally of parents and students fighting to have an online option for school this year, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Fairfield, Conn.
Macy Schulman, left, and Mason Yeoh, both students at Fairfield Warde High School in Connecticut, carry pro-remote learning signs during a rally in August of parents and students fighting to have an online option for school this academic year.
Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP
States Ind. Teachers Push Back Against Bill That Would Let Parents Vet School Curricula
Sparking opposition from dozens of teachers, the legislation seeks to require all school curricula to be vetted by parent review committees.
4 min read
Rep. Vernon Smith, left, D-Gary, looks at his notes during the first day of the legislative session at the the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Rep. Vernon Smith, left, D-Gary, looks at his notes during the first day of the legislative session at the the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
States Ariz. Families Can Now Get Private School Vouchers If Their Schools Go Remote
Gov. Doug Ducey says he is taking "preemptive action" to keep students in classrooms despite rising hospitalizations as the Omicron variant spreads.
4 min read
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a ceremony on Dec. 7, 2021, in Phoenix. Gov. Ducey on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, took what he called "preemptive action" to keep school public schools open and give students access to in-person instruction despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Arizona and nationwide as the more contagious omicron virus variant spreads.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a ceremony on Dec. 7, 2021, in Phoenix.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
States Opinion 5 Takeaways for Education From Virginia's Governor Race
In an election where K-12 schooling was widely seen as the central issue, Glenn Youngkin’s victory has important implications for schools.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty