Dem will tout funding revamp for schools today during Club 20

DENVER — Sen. Michael Johnston doesn’t know what kind of reception he’ll receive with his idea to revamp the way the state funds K-12 education, but the Denver Democrat is going to try anyway.

His plan today is to get members of Club 20 to like the idea, too.

He is one of several people today who will speak at the Western Slope group’s spring meeting at Colorado Mesa University.

Part of Johnston’s consternation isn’t so much over his nearly 200-page bill that rewrites the School Finance Act, which includes a school funding formula that often is criticized as being inequitable.

The part he’s most concerned with is how they will react to a piece of the package that’s not under his control, a separate ballot question this fall to raise $1 billion or more in increased income taxes.

But Johnston sees part of his task not only to educate other state legislators about what his measure does, but, because of that pending ballot question, the rest of the state as well.

“We just spent three days and almost 15 hours amending this bill in committee (this week), which is the longest I’ve ever spent on any bill in the four years I’ve been down here,” Johnston said. “But that makes sense. It’s a 200-page bill. It rewrites the single largest and most complex part of state government. The school finance formula controls almost 50 percent of the entire state government, so it’s worth that much time.”

Johnston’s measure has already been highly criticized from several corners of the state, primarily from people in larger school districts who fear they won’t receive more money under the formula, or that they might lose some.

As a result, the Senate Education Committee spent three days on it this past week adding numerous amendments that changed who would get what.

The new formula, which is contingent on voters passing whatever tax increase is placed before them in November, guarantees that no district would see a decrease in current funding.

On the contrary, Johnston says, each of the state’s 178 school districts would see an increase, some just more than others.

Beyond Johnston, Club 20 members will hear from U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and Gov. John Hickenlooper. They also are to hear briefings about the latest issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing and receive a report on the Colorado River basin.

Dillon Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner, whose district includes the eastern side of Delta County, is scheduled to appear with Johnston, but isn’t expected to attend today’s session.


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