School finance overhaul plan gets first hearing

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DENVER -- Lawmakers are set to hear public testimony Tuesday on a major overhaul of education funding in Colorado.

The School Finance Act, also known as Senate Bill 213, will be heard by the Senate Education Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Old Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol.

The $6.4 billion plan amounts to a $1 billion increase from current funding levels -- an average increase in per-pupil funding from $6,302 to $7,459, according to the Department of Education -- but it's not just in need of approval from lawmakers.

Because of the additional revenue requested, voters would still have to decide whether to raise taxes to pay for the new financing formula, once it's approved by the legislature.

The complicated financing proposal, authored by Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, a former teacher and principal based on months of community outreach, attempts to allocate more money to districts and schools with higher populations of at-risk students and English-language learners.

Johnston's proposal would also change how school enrollment, which determines funding, is calculated.

Under S.B. 2013, enrollment counts would be based on average daily membership counts, collected four times a year from school districts.

District funding would be calculated using prior year enrollment figures.

Multi-year averaging of enrollment losses would be retained for declining districts to soften funding cuts.

Base funding would include availability of full-day kindergarten for all students and full per-pupil funding of all high school students regardless of how many classes they take.

Additional half-day preschool slots for at-risk four-year-olds would not be included in the per-pupil base because that program is funded separately.

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