Republican senators unhappy about budget’s education funds
The Colorado Senate gave final approval to next year’s state budget Friday, but it doesn’t do enough to fund K-12 education, Republican senators said.
Although the budget increases funding to public schools by about $300 million more than the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Republican lawmakers argued it wasn’t enough, nor was it done right.
Those senators said the proposed $23 billion budget should have focused more on restoring cuts made to the state’s 178 school districts during the recent recession.
“Where are the priorities?” asked Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley. “It’s not education, it’s not higher education. It’s other programs. It’s not transportation. It’s other programs, it’s other priorities.”
That angered Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who said that more than half of the state’s general fund, the main part of the budget that the Legislature has any real control over, devotes more than half to higher education and K-12 spending.
Both are getting hundreds of millions of dollars more than they did this year, he said.
Heath said it’s not enough, ... and that the state really needs to increase taxes to fund schools.
“So to stand up here and say we do not have a commitment to education burns me up,” he said of the Republicans’ criticism of the budget bill.
“I resent that. We all should resent it because this body, this state, has got to recommit to education at all levels. We need to ask every member of this state to get behind us and support that because we are not doing right by our kids.”
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, countered that raising taxes isn’t the answer.
Lundberg, one of eight Republican senators who voted against the budget, said Coloradans already are paying too much in taxes.
He said the real answer is to allow home-schools and private schools to flourish.
“This concept that the government has to do it all, that big government concept ... I totally reject,” he said. “Education doesn’t just happen because government dollars pour into the funnel.”
The budget will head to a conference committee that will iron out differences between the House and Senate versions.
Both, however, are expected to include funding for an aerial firefighting fleet and money for renovating the library at Colorado Mesa University, but only if the state collects more money than it expects.