Boosting Equity and Adequacy in K-12 Education

(April 15) – A bill to modernize Colorado’s K-12 funding formula passed the House Education Committee tonight on a vote of 7-6.

SB13-213, sponsored in the House by Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon), is the first update since 1994 to the formula used each year to allocate state dollars to each of Colorado’s 178 school districts.

Changes to local funding driven by constitutional limitations have required a significant increase in state support over the last 20 years. Whereas the state formerly provided less than 40 percent of public school funding, it now provides more than 60 percent. These and other changes have led to an inequitable distribution of state funding, especially to poor rural districts, at-risk and minority populations, and special education programs.

“The old system was designed with equity in mind,” Rep. Hamner said, “but it is now resulting in drastic disparities between districts. It is time to update the formula.”

The bill updates the student count system, ensures that dollars follow students to their schools, and adds significant transparency and accountability measures including a return-on-investment study to ensure that student achievement improves with the investment of new taxpayer dollars. These important reforms have won the support of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Succeeds – business organizations with an interest in improving K-12 education.

“We’ve adopted 21st century content standards and assessments,” Rep. Hamner said. “We’ve got accountability based on student growth. We’ve implemented broad, sweeping changes to our teacher effectiveness and evaluation systems. But our voters have not addressed the funding shortfall.”

SB13-213 will only go into effect if Colorado voters approve a ballot initiative to increase revenue to support its implementation. The new revenue will also be used for significant investments in proven programs like early-childhood education and full-day kindergarten, while giving districts opportunities to apply for grants to develop innovative programs to improve student achievement.

“Senate Bill 213 modernizes the way we fund education, redesigns the funding formula to increase equity, provides investments in strategies that are proven to make a difference, and helps us prepare more children for success in education and life,” Rep. Hamner said.

The bill has passed the Senate and now heads to the House floor.

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