Bill restores some lost funding for education

DENVER — Lawmakers increased the funding they’re giving to the state’s 178 school districts to make up for money cut during the recent recession, but it still wasn’t enough for other legislators.

So before the Colorado House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill to increase that funding over this year’s appropriations, some Republicans tried once again to raise the amount even higher.

The measure, HB1292, also known as the Student Success Act, is designed to restore some of the $1 billion that was cut from K-12 spending over the past four years.

But while state revenues have rebounded from the recession, they still aren’t nearly high enough to restore all of those cuts and still meet other pressing needs, such as higher education, prisons and capital construction projects, Democrats said.

As a result, the best they could do was increase the funding by $110 million over this year’s budget, saying they plan to slowly pay back the rest over the next several years.

“We have a huge commitment to buying down the negation factor, $110 million,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock. “We have investments in our at-risk readers, we have investments in our charter school facilities … (but) we have other people who are paying attention to our state budget and the decisions we make here.”

A handful of Republicans, however, said more could go toward that negative factor if the bill and a companion measure, HB1298, didn’t also include funding for such specific programs as English language proficiency and reading programs.

They said local school districts should be the ones to decide what to do with the money they get from the state, and not be mandated by the Legislature.

“This is truly local control,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “Give the money back to the schools and let them do what they need to do to meet the standards we set for them.”

One Republican lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, tried to amend the bill to increase money toward paying back the negative factor by diverting about $17 million earmarked for early childhood education.

But he only did that after the House rejected an attempt to take $4 million of that money to fund a special teacher incentive program that he proposed earlier this session, one that was rejected in February by the House Education Committee.


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