Politics

Colorado lawmakers are pushing their efforts to keep schools funded despite low enrollment rates


This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More in chalkbeat.org.

On Friday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to keep funding steady for Colorado schools despite the pandemic-related decline.

Colorado funds its schools on a per pupil basis, and lawmakers can block the millions promised to schools after registering student numbers in October. Nearly 30,000 fewer students this year, down 3%.

Instead, Colorado lawmakers have said they will Maintaining school funding An appreciation for schools incurring additional costs for student education in the event of a pandemic, either in person or online, and on the basis that some of the students who sat in the fall could return to their home areas in the winter and spring.

And Republican senators had suggested earlier in the session that they had concerns about the bill because they want money from the state for education to pursue students, rather than going to areas that might educate fewer children. But on Friday they said they would vote in favor of the bill with an asterisk, which indicates the need for a larger conversation about school funding.

State Senator Rachel Zinsinger, chair of the Senate Education Committee and sponsor of the bill, has agreed to preserve school funding. The Arvada Democratic member said that besides the issues raised by Republicans, the pandemic has exposed problems with how zoning is being defined for students in poverty – a number that also affects state funding.

Despite widespread job losses, many areas have already seen a decrease in the number of students eligible for subsidized lunches. Almost certainly, this does not mean that fewer students live in struggling families. Instead, the federal government has waived the paperwork normally required to provide free lunches, so the regions don’t have a set number of eligible students.

The Bill In this year’s funding, it sends an additional $ 60 million to school districts – $ 41 million to compensate for lost local tax revenues and another $ 19 million for districts that have seen a significant drop in enrollment or have seen a significant drop in the number of students living in poverty.

Rural areas will share another $ 25 million in the new nicotine tax that voters approved in November.

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According to the school finance formula, the full hit of school districts It should have been roughly $ 121 million. But Colorado lawmakers are already holding back the hundreds of millions each year that the state constitution states that K-12 schools must go to pay for other priorities. The cut reached $ 1.2 billion this school year as lawmakers struggled to balance the budget during the height of trade restrictions and job losses. The Colorado K-12 budget is roughly $ 7.2 billion.

Instead of reclaiming $ 121 million for the state, the School Funding Amendment Bill essentially handled it as part of the amount it had already withheld.

The bill goes to the state assembly, where the Democrats have a large majority and the bill is expected to pass easily.

Chalkbeat is a non-profit news site that covers educational change in public schools.

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