School Funding

Jefferson County schools have big stake in Colorado budget talks

Limited K-12 funding leaves local schools with $71 million less this year

Posted 2/15/16

Jefferson County schools receive more than $300 million from the state to help pay for education. This year, the district is actually getting $9.1 million more, which sounds good until considering that “full” school funding would actually give …

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School Funding

Jefferson County schools have big stake in Colorado budget talks

Limited K-12 funding leaves local schools with $71 million less this year

Posted

Jefferson County schools receive more than $300 million from the state to help pay for education. This year, the district is actually getting $9.1 million more, which sounds good until considering that “full” school funding would actually give Jeffco an additional $71 million this year.

In fact, since 2009-2010, the district estimates legislative changes to the way education funding is calculated has meant $485 million in lost funding.

“With the anticipation of not getting a lot of money from the state, we have to find other means to fund the increase costs of programs and curriculum in our district,” Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee said.

Two weeks ago, McMinimee and Jeffco’s finance staff met with seven legislators from Jefferson County to discuss the district’s position on funding and see how or what the two groups could do to help solve the issue. Then last week it was announced that the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and the legislature’s two education committees, including 26 lawmakers, would be taking a continued look at the education portion of this year’s state budget, and if they can reduce the size of that downward revision in school funding, known as the negative factor.

The negative factor refers to a statewide shortfall in education funding that began in 2010, after legislators opted to reinterpret state Amendment 23, which sets minimum education funding requirements, allowing them to pay much less than initially estimated.

“Quality education for every student in Colorado and, especially in my district, is a priority for me,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft Tharp, a Democrat whose District 29 includes Arvada parts of Westminster.She was among the legislators who met with the district recently.I know that our classrooms need more resources. But because of conflicting mandates in our state constitution, we have no extra funding for K-12 education this budget year.”

“The negative factor is such a big part of what we’re managing around,” said Kathleen Askelson, chief financial officer for Jeffco schools. “We haven’t been able to bring back much, and it’s been difficult to meet the needs of our students.”

Superintendents and legislators alike say they are working to find solutions and are looking to several short-term options, such as the use of $24.5 million in unused education funding proposed the Joint Budget Committee to be used this year, or by freeing up additional money through reclassifying the state’s hospital provider fee to exempt it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Democrats, including Kraft-Tharp support the hospital provider fee change, but Republicans believe that the fee change is not allowed under state law and oppose it.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” McMinimee said, “but it looks like there are some pathways to solving this.”

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