(Feb. 7) – House Democrats today turned aside a Republican attempt to chip away at state funding for Colorado K-12 students.

State support for K-12 education has been chronically low for years, and this school year it is $828 million below the levels approved by the voters in Amendment 23.

So when pupil and special education counts came in slightly lower than expected in 2017, leaving a $12.9 million budget overage for K-12 for the current fiscal year, Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee tried last week to take the opportunity to keep that money in our schools, providing a modest $8 increase in per-pupil funding. But GOP members on the JBC defeated that motion, and one of them described the denial of school funding as “a significant victory.”

Today, during debate on supplemental budget requests for this year’s state budget, Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the chairwoman of the House Education Committee, introduced an amendment to put the $12.9 million back into school funding for the 2017-18 school year.

“This is $12.9 million that is allocated for our schools,” Rep. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, told the House today. “It is $12.9 million that should stay allocated for our schools.”

The amendment also protected $96.9 million in state funding for schools by putting it into the state education fund. The week before, Republicans on the JBC had tried to pull this money out into the general fund for use for non-education-related purposes.

“We have a significant educator shortage, especially in rural Colorado,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “Cutting education funding is not the answer to that pressing problem.”

The amendment to HB18-1171 passed on a voice vote.

“My definition of ‘a significant victory’ is one that protects our K-12 students from further budget cuts,” Rep. Pettersen said later. “Raiding school funding, especially in a strong budget year, is absolutely the wrong approach.”

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