Superintendents from Valley join statewide school financing proposal

STATEWIDE — During a Wednesday press conference in Denver, Colorado superintendents from across the state presented their plan to fix school funding via a new formula that changes the current distribution model. The proposal, introduced to the state legislature on Monday, would factor in district size, poverty rate, cost of living, special education availability, gifted children and English language learners to make funding more equitable.

Right now 171 superintendents support House Bill 1232 to replace the formula that hasn't been changed since 1994, including the superintendents from every district in the San Luis Valley.

"That's a heck of a backing," said Alamosa School District Superintendent Robert Alejo during a brief discussion of the bill at Monday's school board meeting. "That's 93 percent of all districts."

According to the bill, when calculating district total program funding the new formula:

  • Counts kindergarten students as half-day or full-day pupils depending on the length of the kindergarten program;
  • Counts preschool students as half-day pupils, anticipating conforming changes to the Colorado preschool program, following enactment of the bill, to remove limits on the number of 4- and 5-year-old pupils attending state-funded preschool and the pupil eligibility criteria for 4- and 5-year-old pupils;
  • Differentiates between pupils with specified disabilities for purposes of determining the new special education factor funding, anticipating conforming changes to categorical funding programs, following enactment of the bill, to use special education categorical funding only for high-cost disability reimbursement grants; and
  • Applies English language learner factor funding for up to seven years to all English language learners, except for those students with no English proficiency, anticipating conforming changes to categorical funding programs, following enactment of the bill, to use categorical funding only for students with no English proficiency.

The bill takes effect only if voters approve a ballot measure no later than the 2022 statewide general election that increases funding for preschool through high school public education.

"I think it's pretty great that there's such a broad group of superintendents that support it," said Alamosa School District Board member Dr. Thomas Miller on Monday. "With that number of superintendents, some of the ones in those areas that are doing really well are still signing on to help the state as a whole."