Legislation helps equalize funding of Colorado’s traditional public schools and charter schools
This article originally appeared in the Denver Post here: www.denverpost.com/2017/05/10/colorado-charter-school-funding-measure-passes/
A bipartisan charter school funding bill that backers termed “historic” is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature after passing the State Senate Wednesday.
House Bill 1375, first introduced Monday, requires school districts to develop a plan by the 2019-20 school year to equitably share voter-approved tax increases — called mill levy overrides — with charter schools.
Backers of the bill say it is the first of its kind passed in the United States and helps equalize funding of Colorado’s traditional public schools and its less-conventional charter schools.
The bill’s sponsors — Republican Lang Sias and Democrat Brittany Pettersen in the House and Republican Owen Hill and Democrat Angela Williams in the Senate — were praised for hammering out a compromise in the often heated and contentious charter school debate.
All four “should be commended for creating this historic piece of legislation that will help ensure that all of Colorado public schools students receive equal funding for their public education regardless of what type of public school they attend,” said Dan Schaller, director of government affairs at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
Charter school supporters have complained that only about a third of Colorado’s 178 school districts share mill levy override revenue. In all, about $34 million in local tax increases are not being shared equitably with charter schools, according to a legislative report.
Colorado charter schools have seen a 30 percent increase in enrollment since 2013, and students earn higher scores on state tests than their district peers, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
More than 108,000 students were enrolled in charter schools during the 2015-16 school year and comprise a more diverse population than other public schools, according to state officials.
Critics of charter schools — public schools that operate independently from local school districts — say the schools are exempt from many of the rules that govern traditional public schools, including financial transparency.
House Bill 1375, along with a similar bill killed earlier this week, would take control over funding from local school districts, detractors say.
The bill asks districts to develop plans to share mill levy funds, while allowing them to continue to withhold 5 percent of per pupil revenue. Charters would also be required to post some of their tax documents on their websites and limit their financial waivers.
Williams said the measure “first and foremost provides equitable funding for all Colorado’s children no matter what type of school they attend.”
“The bill also improves our education system by requiring additional transparency and accountability from charter schools without creating additional burdens for schools,” she said.