EDITORIAL: Law will create equal opportunities for children

By: The Gazette editorial board
June 2, 2017

Orignal article appeared in The Gazette here: http://gazette.com/editorial-law-will-create-equal-opportunities-for-children/article/1604340

It is not just the Rocky Mountains and an enviable climate that distinguish Colorado as a desirable relocation state. It is also the K-12 education system, which requires state money to follow students to whichever accredited schools their parents or guardians choose.

Colorado is the school choice state.

Friday, our nationally acclaimed education system should get even better, as Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign House Bill 1375 into law.

Colorado's follow-the-students financial arrangement has led to an unprecedented revolution in public school choice, with charters popping up in most communities to serve students with diverse needs. The old one-size-fits-all attendance center model is a thing of the past in our state.

But our system isn't perfect, and detractors continue doing whatever they can to preserve the old monopolized system of schools that don't have to compete for students.

One example of pushback against school choice is the unfair distribution of new tax revenues generated when voters of a school district approve mill levy overrides.

In two-thirds of Colorado's school districts that have approved new taxes, school boards have succumbed to teachers union pressure and declined to share the new revenues with charters.

The inequitable distribution of funds seems counterintuitive to American values. Our culture traditionally rewards good outcomes, which means charter schools should be entitled to at least an equal amount of new tax money. After all, the Colorado Department of Education found charter school students on average score higher on state tests than their peers in traditional public schools.

Probably because charters deliver good results, they have seen a 30 percent increase in enrollment statewide since 2013. More than 108,000 Colorado students were enrolled in charters for the 2015-16 school year, and charter student populations were more diverse than the populations in traditional schools.

By all meaningful measures, charter schools have improved education in Colorado. They should be rewarded, not left out, when taxpayers devote more money to education.

HB1375 will put an end to the practice of depriving charter schools of new tax revenues.

When signed into law, it will require school districts to develop plans in time for the 2019-20 school year to share new tax revenues equitably with charter schools.

Major sponsors of the bipartisan bill include State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who told us the bill will "treat all children equally within a district."

"We will not discriminate if you choose to go to one form of school on one side of the street versus a different form of public school on the other side of the street," Hill said, as quoted by The Complete Colorado.

If all goes as planned, HB1375 will become law when the governor signs it at 9:05 a.m. at the Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest charter school in Denver.

This is a bipartisan move toward equal opportunity in our state's public school system. It will be another policy designed to make Colorado a place for children, families and businesses to excel.

the Gazette editorial board