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Amid tension, League of Charter Schools board supports school finance reform

After months of heated meetings, the board of the Colorado League of Charter Schools this week reversed its opposition of the school finance reform act Senate Bill 13-213 and will now support the bill, “with conditions.”

The decision followed a divided vote that the board’s president called “undoubtedly the biggest policy controversy that’s come up in the League in the last decade.”

Van Schoales, the president of the League’s board of directors, said that in his opinion, the bill was extremely favorable to charter schools, primarily because it decreases funding gaps between district and charter schools. Though the board opposed the initial bill, improvements made along the way specifically addressing charter school issues helped swing the board majority’s support.

“I think objective school reform folks would say this is one of the best school finance bills in the country,” said Schoales, who has helped lead several Democratic education reform efforts in the state.

So why was it so hard for the board to approve it? Schoales said the League’s division sprung from the Colorado legislature, where the bill garnered no Republican support. The 9-member League board includes former Republican state senator and one-time House majority leader Keith King — now the president of the Colorado Springs City Council — and much of the board split along ideological lines in the wake of across-the-board Republican disapproval of the bill.

In a news release, the League explained the board’s support was conditional upon the bill’s positive impact on charters, as well as equitable sharing of mill levy override money and further examination of some details of the policy during next year’s legislative session.

But despite the approval, the League’s battle isn’t over. Next up is deciding whether to support a future state ballot initiative based on the bill that will ask voters for a tax increase to pay for it. The bill won’t take effect without voter support.

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