The Senate Democrats yesterday moved forward a rewrite of the school finance policy that would entirely reform K through 12 education in Colorado. The revamped formula has three goals: (1) improve the adequacy of our education system; (2) equitably distribute state funding; (3) achieve financial stability for K-12 education in Colorado.
The plan will foster economic development through proven education programs and reforms. Notably, it allows for full-day kindergarten for all kids in Colorado, and early childhood education for at-risk three and four year olds.
Nearly four decades of data prove that early education programs help kids achieve academically and socially, particularly disadvantaged kids who may otherwise lag behind. Graduates of the Colorado Preschool Program, for example, test 10 percentage points higher on reading, math, and writing tests through seventh grade than their at-risk peers. That program had a wait list of 8,016 kids this past year, a list that may grow as the number of young children living in poverty has increased by 136 percent since 2000, and the number of kids living in concentrated poverty has increased 360 percent during that same timeframe.
Data proves that full-day kindergarten works, as well. The additional hours offered through a full-day program provide children with more instructional time to learn and understand basic concepts, resulting in more academic progress and larger gains in reading and math. Today, 70 percent of Colorado kindergarteners attend full-day programs, up 40 percent in five years. Even so, numerous Colorado families cannot afford full-day kindergarten, as the state only funds half-day kindergarten. The revamped school finance policy changes that.
“The most effective investment in economic development the state can make is through education. We will only attract the brightest if we invest in education at all levels. Our workforce is what attracts and retains companies that provide good paying jobs,” said Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder), the bill sponsor.
“This generation is waiting on us to reform education. They’re waiting for a state of the art, 21st century education system, and they urgently need it. This bill is a path to get the job done,” said Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), the bill sponsor.
In addition to early childhood education and full-day kindergarten, the rewrite of the school finance policy (SB 13-213) can be explained through the following five steps:
Base funding: is to provide base per-pupil funding for grades K-12, as in the previous school finance formula. However, under the new formula, base funding will also be given for 8,000 additional three-year-olds and 17,000 additional four-year-olds to attend half-day early childhood education. In addition, it will provide base funding for full-day kindergarten, and restore the funding for online/ASCENT students.
Weights: is to add funding for small districts, at-risk students, and English language learners.
State and local share: is to determine how much revenue local districts are able to raise, and the state backfills the difference.
Categoricals: is to increase state funding for special education, gifted and talented education, and continue to fund the other categoricals.
Additional support: is to offer additional state support for mill levy match, innovation, and teaching and leadership investment
Next, the House of Representatives will hear SB 13-213.