New school financing plan will go to Colorado voters

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DENVER — On a party-line vote Monday, the House passed a major overhaul of how Colorado schools are funded that will allocate additional money to districts with higher percentages of low-income and English language learners.

But voters will have the final say on whether the new funding model, which hinges on the approval of $1 billion in new taxes to fund schools, is ever put in place.

Senate Bill 213 marks the first time since 1994 that state lawmakers have changed the formula used every year to allocate education funding to each of Colorado’s 178 school districts.

The bill mandates a base level of per-pupil funding for all school districts and ensures that dollars follow students to their schools. Subject to a statewide citizen initiative, the bill adds additional funding to disadvantaged districts to bring them up to par. It would also fund full-day kindergarten and increase support for at-risk students.

All 28 House Republicans voted against the bill, many of them unconvinced that the bill includes enough reform and accountability measures to warrant the $1 billion in new funding.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, argued that the legislation “puts in place the policy we need for education reform in Colorado and then puts the question right where it belongs, as per TABOR, in the hands of the people of Colorado to make the final decision.”

Because the bill was amended in the House, it will go back to the Senate for its concurrence before heading to Gov. John Hickenlooper to be signed into law.

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