A draft version of the proposed Student Success Act — known as the Son of SB 213 around the Capitol because it is an attempt to salvage parts of last year’s failed school finance overhaul — would cost $303 million and target new education funding to early literacy, English language learners and charter school facilities.
The proposal also would contribute modestly to buying down the current $1 billion shortfall in school funding and give school districts extra funding to implement programs such as new content standards, new tests and the new teacher evaluation system.
Discussion about reviving parts of last year’s Senate Bill 13-213, the comprehensive school funding overhaul, have been underway since last November, after voters rejected Amendment 66, the $1 billion tax increase needed to pay for that bill and trigger the new system.
Three legislators have been working on the son-of bill, Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver, Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock. Hamner is chair of the House Education Committee, and Murray is the senior Republican on that panel. Johnston, of course, was the author of SB 13-213 and the driving force behind Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark educator evaluation law.
Johnston is trying to take a lower profile on this year’s bill, which is expected to start in the House whenever it’s introduced.
The draft bill follows the “something for everyone” strategy of SB 13-213, which was designed to appeal to the full spectrum of education interest groups. Previous conceptions of the bill included additional program funding for full-day kindergarten, which is absent from the draft bill. However, the proposal does include significant funding for kindergarten facilities.
The bill also proposes an $80 million buy-down of the “negative factor,” the formula the legislature has used in recent years to reduce K-12 funding from what it otherwise would have been.
The bill proposes $148 million in “recurring costs,” meaning they would have to be continued in future years, and $115 million in one-time spending.
With the exception of the lack of kindergarten operation funding, the bill contains few surprises, based on what Johnston had been suggesting earlier.
Given that, the draft bill doesn’t ease the concerns of many education interest groups, which are pushing hard this year for a significant reduction of the $1 billion education funding deficit – perhaps by as much as $275 million – and which are resisting the kind of earmarked spending proposed in the draft bill.
“There’s going to be a lot of pushback,” said one education lobbyist.
A key question about the draft bill is whether Johnston can reassemble the Democratic-Republican coalition that enabled him to pass SB 10-191. Johnston lost Republican support for SB 13-213 because it required a tax increase, but he hopes to gain GOP backing for this year’s bill. In addition to Murray’s support, Johnston hopes to attract backing from Republicans who have introduced separate bills on ELL funding, district financial transparency and changing the way the state counts enrollment.
Here are the details on what the student success bill proposes:
- $80 million to buy down the negative factor
- $20 million in additional continual funding for implementation of the READ Act, which requires students to be reading at grade level by third grade
- $13 million for charter facilities funding
- $40 million for school infrastructure, kindergarten facilities ($30 million), technology ($5 million) and yet more for charter schools ($5 million). This part of the proposal is likely to raise fierce opposition from interests who feel the $40 million in marijuana tax revenue should go to the Building Excellent Schools Today program under the terms of Proposition AA.
- $100 million in one-time funding (interestingly labeled the “negative factor supplemental fund”) for districts to implement reforms that already are on the books
- $15 million to implement school-level financial reports and convert the current system of one-day enrollment counts to the average daily membership system
While some sources believe the bill could be introduced as early as next week, final decisions on school funding probably won’t be made until late March at the earliest, after quarterly revenue forecasts are issued by legislative and executive branch economists.
In the meantime, Johnston’s staff has circulated the draft bill to a wide variety of education interest groups, seeking their comments. Copies of the bill were distributed starting Monday evening. Lobbyists and school finance analysts are going over the 106-page bill with magnifying glasses, looking for the obscure details that Johnston’s bills are known for.
“You really need to get into the weeds on this one,” said one school finance expert.