State Superintendents Ask for More Funding
District 50 Superintendent Pamela Swanson joined superintendents from around the state in asking Governor John Hickenlooper and members of the Colorado Legislature to restore $275 million in funding to public education in this legislative session. 168 superintendents representing the vast majority of students in Colorado signed the letter.
That increase is in addition to increased funding in the Colorado School Finance Act proposed by the governor. Lawmakers will not arrive at a final funding figure until May.
Because of a rebounding economy, the legislature currently has access to more than $1 billion in the State Education Fund. In a letter to District 50 staff and parents Swanson wrote, “I, along with other superintendents, believe this is a reasonable request. It can be accomplished without a tax increase and without cutting other important state programs.”
Several years ago lawmakers imposed what was called the “negative factor” to help the state manage its budget crisis. The complex formula allowed the state to bypass a voter imposed requirement to fund public education at inflation plus one percent every year. The “negative factor” costs District 50 more than $13 million every year.
While Swanson supports the return of $275 million dollars to schools she also expressed concerns. “From my perspective this request is a good starting point, but I would like to see a higher priority placed on more funding for “at risk” students,” she wrote. “I am working with like-minded superintendents and lawmakers to make sure our perspective is well represented at the capitol.”
In addition, the superintendents’ letter asks lawmakers not to pass along any unfunded mandates that place a greater burden on district budgets and resource and time that could be used for teaching.
The letter was sent out on the same day that the District 50 Board of Education held a study session to look at next year’s budget.
The District 50 budget team told board members that because voters rejected last year’s $5.25 million mill levy override, some very difficult financial decisions need to be made. Swanson estimates that the district will need to find about $2.5 million in savings to help balance the budget.
This year the board authorized the use of about $5 million dollars in reserves.
During the study session, Board President Ruben Pacheco voiced the view shared by all board members. “There are no easy decisions left,” he said.
Read the Colorado Superintendents’ letter here.
Posted February 13, 2014