On Tuesday, we asked our readers “How can Colorado schools become more equitable?”
The most common response: If you want equitable results give schools equitable funding.
Before we see what our readers had to say, I asked our capitol editor and school funding expert to explain how schools here are funded. Here’s what he had to say:
Colorado schools are funded through a complicated formula that weights cost of living for district staff, district size, percentage of at-risk students and other factors to determine different per-pupil funding amounts for each district. Some critics feel the current system doesn’t adequately pay the true costs of educating at-risk and minority students or English language leaders, especially in districts where such students are concentrated.
And some observers feel funding is further distorted because some districts — often larger, wealthier ones — have additional revenues from extra property taxes approved by local voters, in addition to money provided by the state formula. Some poorer, smaller districts haven’t been able to raise such revenues.
That maybe why Mark Sass, a teacher and occasional First Person contributor put it plainly in our comment section:
Allocate funds based on academic need versus the current per pupil allocation.
Former State Board of Education member Ed Lyell went a little more in-depth:
Declare the total state one valuation district. Eliminate the school district boundaries in terms of property values, mill levies, and funding. This would cause Aspen to help fund Antonito, etc.
It is archaic to even have local districts in terms of funding since the state is the primary source of funding of all schools. Up to the 1970’s local property tax paid over 60% of school funding. Now local property tax is less than 40%, and near 0 in some areas.
On another note, Chalkbeat reader Gwendolyn Eden suggested on Twitter the — very unlikely — idea of closing private schools. She got an idea from this 2012 Gawker article.
— Gwendolyn Eden (@gwennebrask) January 21, 2015