2017 Legislative Session

Funding continues to be front-and-center at the legislature.

  • Uniform mill levy proposal from the JBC touted as a fairness issue.
    Joint Budget Committee (JBC) staff recommended a referred ballot measure that would mandate a uniform mill levy. This would increase the local share and help relieve the increased pressure on the state budget for the state share. It’s a heavy lift — for JBC to sponsor the bill, it would require unanimous support from all six JBC members and then it would require the support of two-thirds of both chambers. Read more
  • JBC looks to lead on the formation of a committee to study and establish a long-term education vision.
    A third party would be hired to conduct the work to determine the vision and cost to modernize Colorado classrooms.
  • JBC asks CDE to lead conversations with districts on School Finance Act restructuring.
    JBC encouraged Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to hold conversations with school districts about restructuring the School Finance Act (SFA).
  • A “property tax cut” will create more pressure on state to backfill local share.
    Because housing values grew faster than the value of other property (and because the Gallagher Amendment requires the state to maintain a consistent ratio between the share of property taxes collected from homes and the share of property taxes collected from commercial property), the portion of the value of homes that is taxed must be reduced. This means a reduction of $135 million collected in local property taxes that will need to be picked up by the state share. Read more
  • Hickenlooper proposes two tax hikes to help fill the budget hole created by the local property tax cut described above.
    He is calling for a 50 percent increase in sales taxes on recreational marijuana starting July 1, which would generate an extra $42 million and a cut to the senior homestead property tax exemption, freeing another $68 million for schools. The shift would allow seniors to claim a tax break on the first $100,000 in their home value, rather than the first $200,000 allowed in current law. Read more
  • A proposal to revise Colorado’s spending cap formula is an attempt to address a flawed formula.
    Representative Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Senator Larry Crowder of Alamosa are proposing the state spending cap formula be tied to personal income, rather than consumer inflation plus population change. Read more
  • One attempt to eliminate the negative factor is to redirect Colorado Lottery money to public school districts.
    Representative Jon Becker of Fort Morgan is proposing that Colorado Lottery money be redirected to public school districts until schools have caught up with the funding lost since the Great Recession. Read more
  • The Hospital Provider Fee continues to be a political lightning rod.
    By reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee into an enterprise fund, it would exempt fees collected on hospitals from counting toward the state’s revenue caps, thus resulting in a lowering of revenue below the revenue cap.

Though not likely to play as big of a role this year, legislation on testing won’t go away.

  • Ninth-grade testing
    Senator Nancy Todd is expected to introduce a bill that would require flexibility with ninth-grade testing. It would allow districts to choose between the PARCC test or a different exam aligned to a college entrance exam. Read more

Charter bills are likely to return again in 2017.

Though details haven’t been released, we expect charter bill(s) focused on sharing local property tax revenue equally among traditional public schools and charter public schools, among other things, to return. Stay tuned as details emerge.

Rural schools continue to struggle with the teacher shortage and funding issues.

  • Rural flexibility
    • Representative Jim Wilson is expected to continue his push to eliminate paperwork and provide flexibility to rural schools.
  • Boosting pay for rural teachers
    • Elizabeth School District Superintendent Douglas Bissonette is pushing for equality in teacher pay throughout Colorado as a way to help address the growing teacher shortage problem. Read more

Colorado will focus on implementing ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).

When ESSA passed, states received significant flexibility on: Assessments; Accountability; Teacher Evaluation and Teacher Quality; Block Grants; and Parent Engagement. The role/authority of the US Department of Education was scaled back considerably (as compared to No Child Left Behind). The Colorado plan must include stakeholder input and will be “peer reviewed.” The process is currently underway. This brief video provides a quick explanation of ESSA.

Federal Issues are a bit of a wild card with the transition to the Trump administration.

New US Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is considered a wild card as well. States are waiting to see how this new leadership will play out at the policy level in each state. Education Week has a video explaining school choice, which is sure to be a topic moving forward.

Visit Chalkbeat’s 2017 Colorado Bill Tracker website for additional details and information.