State superintendents seek to restore $275M in public school funds from Colorado Legislature
Steamboat Springs — In early February, 168 of Colorado’s 178 public school district superintendents made their voices heard by sending a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the General Assembly, requesting that more state funds be designated for schools and programs.
At Monday’s Steamboat Springs School Board meeting, Superintendent Brad Meeks — one of the 168 who signed the letter sent Feb. 10 — said the process began just three weeks ago, but progress is visible within the Colorado Legislature.
The state superintendents are seeking $275 million from the State Education Fund, most of which would be set aside to address the “negative factor,” a product of economic shortfalls despite Amendment 23’s effort in 2001 to address kindergarten through 12th grade funding issues.
Amendment 23 was designed to increase K-12 funding by the inflation rate plus 1 percent from 2001 to 2011, and increase funding by just the inflation rate in the years following 2011. Extreme shortfalls in the economy forced the redesign of Amendment 23, which created the negative factor, described in the superintendents’ letter as “a mechanism used to reduce funding allocated to public schools.”
“The position of the superintendents is, No. 1, focus on the negative factor first,” Meeks said at Monday’s meeting. “Set down some money for at-risk populations, but the superintendents say we don’t want any more new things at this point.”
Meeks was referring to the superintendents’ clear message in the two-page letter against the imposition of more unfunded mandates. Instead, available money should be directed toward shrinking the negative factor.
The demand for technology improvements and additional programming also challenged districts across Colorado financially, the superintendents’ letter stated.
Of the $275 million the superintendents are requesting — and they ask that it comes with “no strings attached” from the Legislature — about $200 million would be dedicated to addressing the negative factor, which could have significant monetary benefits for the Steamboat Springs School District.
“The one factor that really affects all of us is the negative factor,” Meeks said.
If funding for schools is increased in response to requests made in the letter, about $2.8 million would come to the Steamboat Springs district for program funding.
The superintendents are requesting that money appropriated by the Legislature for public schools be left to respective school boards to allocate. Meeks said when drastic funding cuts were made in the past, the state didn’t give districts any direction on how to cut.
Meeks remained optimistic Monday that advancements in the process indeed are being made through the Legislature.
“It seems to be making a difference, having the superintendents united on this effort,” Meeks said Monday. “It’s still early and still in committee, but that’s still the message.”
Meeks said the superintendents plan to meet again next week to discuss the issue further.
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