The Joint Budget Committee today voted 4-2 to take back $750,000 from the $5 million Colorado Counselor Corps program, which pays for extra counselors and expanded counseling services in middle and high schools spanning more than two dozen districts.
If the cut is approved by the full legislature, it would pull back money intended for “performance awards” this month to 50 schools in 17 districts. That money doesn’t involve the main program, for which $3.9 million already has been granted, but is money is intended to be used for additional college counseling and planning services, JBC analyst Carolyn Kampman told the committee.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, moved to make the cut, saying it didn’t make sense “to give extra awards to districts while we’re trying to cut budgets.”
The JBC is trying to finish work balancing the current 2010-11 state budget.
Rep. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said, “I don’t know if I’m real comfortable with that idea,” adding, “I think that pulling that money back right now might ensure that those results [of the program] remain modest.”
Chair Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, said, “I have some problems with promising money and then taking it back. I don’t want to do this unless it’s the last balancing thing we do.”
But, she and Steadman were outvoted by Ferrandino and the panel’s three Republican members, Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs and Reps. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen and Jon Becker of Fort Morgan.
The JBC’s action would take back $689,298 in performance awards and $65,452 in additional funds that weren’t going to be spent. The money would be returned to the State Education Fund, and in turn used to offset school spending from the state’s main general fund. The latter is what the committee is working to balance.
The districts affected by the action are Aurora, Branson, Brighton, Center, Cherry Creek, Cripple Creek-Victor, Denver, Falcon, Harrison, Karval, Lake County, Montezuma-Cortez, Mesa Valley, Poudre and St. Vrain, plus the Charter School Institute.
The counselor corps was the product of the optimistic 2008 legislative session, before the recession fully hit and when there was extra money for new education programs. Some of those programs were lightly funded to start with, and several have been trimmed in the cutback years of 2009 and 2010.