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Friday Churn: Forecast day

What’s churning:

As Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, told his colleagues Thursday morning about the session, “We got the easy half done; now it’s the hard half.”

Lawmakers will get a better sense of how hard at 1:30 p.m. today, when legislative and executive branch economists present their latest state revenue forecasts to the Joint Budget Committee. The meeting is in room A of the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave. If you want to listen in, use the link to Hearing Room A at the bottom of this page.

The forecasts, which will provide a better idea of how much has to be cut from the 2011-12 budget, will launch three weeks of intense activity around state finances.

Democratic legislators will hold a dozen town hall meetings around the state Saturday to hear citizen comments on proposed K-12 budget cuts. And the Senate Education Committee will hold a three-hour hearing on school funding next Thursday.

The Joint Budget Committee staff will spend next week finishing up the 2011-12 state budget, known as the long bill, which is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate on March 28 and considered by the House starting April 4.

Next year’s school finance bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate on April 4. In the past, the annual bill was a way to add money on top of base school funding. These days, it’s a device for reducing K-12 spending to whatever total the legislature feels it can afford.

Democratic leaders will have to decide how to proceed with other K-12 funding bills they are considering. Senate Bill 11-001, for instance, would take “excess” state funds, such as higher-than-expected revenue, and devote them to education.

Senate committee chairs also have been assigned to look for money in other state departments that could be diverted to education. Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said last Monday, “We want to see what’s there (in the revenue forecasts) before we come forward with any proposals.”

Shaffer also hinted that bipartisan ideas involving both school funding and creation of a state rainy day fund were under discussion.

Another budget issue that will be discussed again in the next few weeks is the size of the general fund reserve for 2011-12. Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to set it at 4 percent, but some Democrats would like a 3 percent or 2 percent reserve to free up more money for education.

What’s on tap (or not):

Senate Bill 11-126, which would make undocumented students eligible for resident-rate college tuition, is on today’s Senate floor calendar but won’t be heard, sponsor Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said Thursday. He said supporters are still assessing chances in the Republican-controlled House and won’t move the bill in the Senate until they have a better sense of the other house.

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education, Ruffatto Hall, Community Room 105, 1999 E. Evans Ave.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Fair test: Instances of cheating have educators searching for a new way to test students. USA Today.

Closer look: Inside the controversial teacher evaluation system in Washington, D.C., schools. Washington Post.

Choice calls: Calls swamp Douglas County school district after voucher pilot approval. Denver Post.

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