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April 25, 2024

House Passes Bills to Support Colorado’s Educators

DENVER, CO –  The House today passed two bills to support Colorado’s educators.

The 2024 School Finance Act (SB24-188), sponsored by Representatives Barbara McLachlan and Shannon Bird, would fully fund Colorado’s public schools and increase per pupil funding to record-levels. HB24-1320, sponsored by Representatives Meghan Lukens and Elizabeth Velasco, seeks to improve educator safety in classrooms across the state.

“This year’s School Finance Act is historic because it fully eliminates the budget stabilization factor, increases per-pupil funding by nearly $780 on average and supports our rural school districts directly,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “Our commitment to improving educational outcomes for each and every student is unwavering, and this year’s school finance act steps up to help recruit, retain and support the educators who make all the difference in the education our kids receive. As our bill moves forward, I’m proud of our legislative efforts to drive resources to small rural schools and those who serve students with the greatest needs.”

“After years of strategic budgeting and planning, the 2024 School Finance Act finally pays off the budget stabilization factor which means schools can increase teacher pay, reduce classroom sizes and better support our students living with disabilities,” said Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster. “This year’s school finance act highlights a record-breaking increase of $780 per-pupil funding which brings the total per-pupil funding to more than $11,450 on average. My passion for public service began with the drive to fully fund our K-12 public schools and support our hardworking educators – this bill fulfills that promise and more to support each and every student in Colorado.”

SB24-188 would raise the base level of per-pupil funding by $780 to $11,450 per-pupil on average. SB24-188 passed by a vote of 61 to 1. This funding can be used to reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay and provide individualized support to help students learn. This year, the bill increases total funding for public schools by more than $500 million to 9.7 billion and completely buys down the Budget Stabilization Factor, a longstanding goal that helps ensure Colorado students get the quality education they deserve.

Increased Funding for Rural Schools: Colorado’s small and large rural school districts often have a difficult time recruiting and maintaining a high-quality workforce needed to support Colorado students and school functions. The 2024 School Finance Act creates an ongoing funding stream for the very first time through a new funding factor, the “Rural Factor”,  for small and large rural school districts. This eliminates rural school districts’ reliance on one-time funding, which makes it difficult for districts to plan ahead using multi-year budgets.

Ninth Grade Success Program: This important program helps ninth grade students with the skills they need to successfully reach tenth grade on-track, on-time and with their peers. This year’s School Finance Act increases funding for this program to support our students’ growth and educational trajectory.

Support for Students Living with a Disability: To prepare each and every one of our students for a lifetime of success, the 2024 School Finance Act amends the definition of “concurrent enrollment” to include students in special education. This means students living with a disability and those who receive transition services on their Individualized Education Program (IEP) can access college-level courses for credit as well as some credential and apprenticeship programs to create stronger workforce pathways and opportunities.

“As a teacher, I know how important it is for students and educators to feel safe at school – and this bill is a big step forward toward creating a safe learning environment for everyone,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs. “Educator safety should be a top priority, and unfortunately, Colorado educators have reported an increase in targeted violence. Ensuring our educators feel safe and comfortable in the classroom will help recruit, retain and strengthen our educator workforce for years to come.”

“This legislation will help identify actions schools can take to keep educators safe so they can focus on teaching our students,” said Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs. “By creating a task force to study this issue, we can examine the role that unequal access to resources and restorative justice play in staff safety issues. Feeling safe in school is essential to fostering a positive educational environment that is more equitable.” 

HB24-1320 passed by a vote of 47 to 15 and seeks to generate recommendations on improving safety for educators and school staff through the creation of the Educator Safety Task Force. Members of the task force will represent school support professionals, teachers, administrators, nonprofits, and students and families from various communities who are impacted. In making their recommendations related to school safety, the task force will look at the impact of funding needs, wraparound supports, staffing ratios, incidents of student behavior, and resource inequality.

The 2023 State of Education report orchestrated by the Colorado Education Association found that nearly a third of respondents, 32 percent, experienced physical abuse by a student in the two years prior to taking the survey.

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