A Compromise to Increase Equity for Kids

(May 9) – A bipartisan compromise bill by Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Lang Sias to solve a statewide issue about mill levy funding while also increasing transparency and accountability for schools passed the House this morning with a 46-19 vote.

“This bill focuses on the needs of kids and puts flexibility back in the hands of the school districts,” said Rep. Pettersen, D-Lakewood, speaking to the emphasis placed on local decision-making. “We worked for months and months to create a plan that makes sure districts have the ability to increase funding for kids who have been historically underserved. Regardless of the type of school a student attends, this bill is looking out for them.”

“The compromise reached in this bill demonstrates what is possible when we are willing to have tough conversations,” said Speaker Crisanta Duran. “We have to be willing to push ourselves to think deeper about what is possible. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to talk about how we do not have an equal playing field for all students, when we think about race disparities, income inequality or challenges for students with disabilities. With this bill, we had to change the focus to be about the kids who may not have been born in the wealthiest zip code or face significant obstacles to succeed.”

“This bill seeks to answer a very difficult question: how do we make sure we honor the will of the voters and make sure all boys and girls in this state have the opportunity to meet their full potential?” continued Speaker Duran. “This bill is a meaningful path forward to make sure all kids can succeed.”

“Where the original bill put a mandate on school districts, this compromise encourages meaningful conversations around the needs of students,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon. “School districts will have three years to have conversations with their schools, parents and communities to come up the best way to increase the equitable distribution of resources and to improve outcomes for all kids. We have an obligation to ensure our schools are serving our kids’ needs, and that they are accountable to parents, districts and taxpayers.”

“If you have kids, all you care about is that your child has access to a quality education,” said Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver. “We could debate these issues all day long, but at the end of the day it comes back to kids. I’m so tired of talking about governance models—let’s stop talking school type and start talking about the kids. How do we make sure every kid has a quality education? If it’s an issue with the law, let’s fix it. If it’s an issue with funding, let’s fix it.”

HB17-1375 strikes a balance that maintains local control for school districts, ensures funding is allocated based on student need and not type of school, and creates greater transparency and accountability for charter schools.

Under the bill, any school district that passes a mill levy override has two options: to implement a plan for distributing the new revenue to each charter and innovation school in the district or distribute to these schools 95 percent of the district’s mill levy override per pupil revenue.

The bill requires schools to post their replacement plans for non-automatic waivers. Each charter school or school district must post publicly a list of the statutes for which the school district or the charter school has received an automatic waiver. In addition, each school must post their 990 forms, which list private donations made to the school. The bill also eliminates two automatic waivers – gifts, grants and donations and competitive bidding. The bill also ensures that if parents have questions about waivers, that there is a live contact available to answer those questions.

The 46-19 vote sends the bill to the Senate.

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