I write today in support of my colleagues across the State of Colorado in advocating for adequate school funding for our students.
As education leaders, we have a professional and moral obligation to deliver on the promise of a high quality education for each and every child in our state. In order to deliver on this promise, I agree that Colorado schools must receive stable and adequate funding for each and every one of its unique children. Unfortunately, this is not our current reality.
We in the Douglas County School District appreciate the efforts taken over the last two years to restore a small portion of the $5.12 billion withheld, via the “negative factor,” from Colorado school districts since 2010. However, with the recent D+ rating by “Education Week” for school funding in Colorado, much work remains.
During the 2016 legislative session, I believe that we must put Colorado schools on a solid funding foundation in one of two ways. One option is to create, pass, and implement a plan to fully fund the negative factor as well as growth over the next five years. Another, better option, is to begin the process to create a new, research-based funding formula that fully funds the unique needs of each child in Colorado based on actual costs and for that funding to follow the child.
As you may know, nearly every school district in Colorado currently runs a significant special education deficit that requires a district to reduce an already inadequate per-pupil-revenue (PPR) for every non-special education student in that district. This is just one example of how the current formula is failing all Colorado children. Again, adequate funding should follow each child, and that funding should be based on the real costs to meet their needs as determined by a thorough, third-party research study on real costs.
Finally, although I would prefer the launch of a better school finance formula described above, one that funds the needs of all of Colorado children regardless of the school or school district in which they reside or choose, I join my colleagues in advocating for the following as a worst case scenario:
- Uphold the intent of the General Assembly, detailed in SB 15-267, and not reduce state appropriations for the 2015-2016 School Finance Act as a result of increases in state-wide assessed property values and consideration of other factors including economic forecast and state-wide enrollment changes.
- Support a supplemental appropriation for 2015-2016 if necessary to ensure per pupil funding is not reduced.
- Do not increase the negative factor in FY 2016-17.
- Increase total program funding in FY 2016-17 by the rate of inflation and additional amounts necessary to account for increases in pupil enrollment.
I stand ready to work in partnership with my fellow superintendents and Colorado’s policy makers to find new solutions to the challenges ahead so every Colorado student receives the education he or she deserves.
Dr. Liz Fagen
Douglas County School District