Capitol Report: Colorado’s superintendents think they can succeed where others have failed

A few dozen school leaders and supporters gathered in front of Dora Moore School in Denver this week to kick off a campaign to change how Colorado distributes money to school districts. Leading the charge, Cheyenne Mountain Superintendent Walt Cooper said the very premise behind public education is at stake.

“If our public schools are truly going to be the great equalizer in this country, they need to be able to effectively address all the needs that every kid brings through the school house door,” he said.

This campaign could be seen as burying the lede, so to speak. The superintendents only want to change the school funding formula if voters approve a tax increase to bring in an additional $1.7 billion for K-12. Private groups plan to put some sort of initiative on the ballot this November to bring in this extra money. How will this be different than the past two attempts, which failed by wide margins? Supporters say a change in how money is distributed will allow school leaders to show voters in their districts how local students will benefit in very concrete ways.

On my way to the press conference, by some sort of journalistic serendipity, Colorado Public Radio was rebroadcasting its podcast The Taxman about the long shadow of Douglas Bruce, and it made clear just how significant a task passing such a tax increase will be. Since 1992, Colorado voters have approved statewide tax increases only on cigarettes and marijuana.

Of more immediate concern, this coming week at the Capitol we’ll have discussion of offering incentives to students who take state assessments, a different approach to funding full-day kindergarten, bills related to student mental health and bullying, and more attempts to chip away at the teacher shortage.

– Erica Meltzer, bureau chief

Top Stories

Colorado’s superintendents want (a lot) more money for schools and a new way to divvy it up

Colorado’s superintendents want to change how the state distributes money to school districts – but only if voters are willing to approve a $1.7 billion tax increase for education. Voters have twice rejected statewide tax increases to fund education, most recently in 2013, but supporters of this new funding model say this time is different. Read more

No pizza parties, no raffle tickets: Bill would bar Colorado schools from offering rewards to test-takers

“The school can’t say you can’t play on the team or go on the field trip,” said Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who opted to keep his own sons from taking state assessments. “This bill addresses something that’s come up recently: If you take the assessment, you get to go to the party or go on the field trip or maybe even get to play on the sports team. It’s the same message, but the other way around.” Read more

Colorado teachers spend hundreds of dollars on their classrooms, union survey says

The Colorado Education Association reported surveying more than 2,000 of its members about their spending in 2017. The results were released several weeks into a legislative session in which state lawmakers are poised once again to debate how much money to spend on schools and how to remedy a teacher shortage that’s hitting rural districts especially hard. Read more

Report: Districts could do more to give black and Hispanic students access to college courses

A student advocacy group looked at disparities in access to concurrent enrollment and found plenty of room for improvement. This year, state legislators are considering a bill that would change the requirements for how school districts must notify families of concurrent enrollment opportunities. Registration and timelines were identified in the report as some of the barriers students face in trying to take concurrent enrollment. Read more

How new evidence bolsters the case for California’s education policy rebellion

California has mounted a decade-long rebuke of the federal government — and drawn sharp criticism from civil rights groups, who worry that the state hasn’t done enough to track whether money meant for disadvantaged students actually reaches them, among other issues.

But some recent evidence gives a boost to what supporters call the “California way.” Read more

What to expect next

Follow education-related bills from start to finish with our 2018 Bill Tracker here.


House Education, HCR 0112, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB18-1130 – School District-Authorized Instructors
  • HB18-1193 – Extend Advanced Placement Incentives Program
  • HB18-1088 – Funding for Full-day Kindergarten

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, SCR 357, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB18-114 – Suicide Prevention Enhance Student Life Skills


House Public Health Care & Human Services, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB18-1094 – Children and Youth Mental Health Treatment Act

Senate Finance, SCR 357, 2 p.m.

  • SB18-147 – Educator Loan Forgiveness Program


House Education, HCR 0112, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB18-1134 – Use of Colorado Preschool Program Positions
  • HB18-1186 – Sunset Review Colorado Youth Advisory Council

Senate Health & Human Services, SCR 354, upon adjournment

  • SB18-163 – Extend Repeal Early Childhood Legislative Commission

Senate Education, SCR 352, upon adjournment

  • SB18-011 – Students Excused from Taking State Assessments
  • SB18-160 – Charter School Induction and Alternative Licensure Program
  • SB18-158 – School Access to Interoperable Communication Technology
  • SB18-151 – Colorado Department of Education Bullying Policies Research
  • SB18-099 – Align Early Childhood Quality Improvement Programs

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, SCR 357, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB18-058 – Failure to Report Child Abuse Statute of Limitations


Senate Education, SCR 352, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB18-133 – Higher Education Certificate Performance Funding
  • SB18-118 – Local School Board Authority Over Charter Schools

What we’re reading

St. Vrain Superintendent Don Haddad is one of just a few school leaders in Colorado dissenting from this proposal to change how the state distributes money to school districts. He doesn’t think this change is likely to garner voter support for more school funding. “The conversation around a mission and vision needs to happen first,” he said. “We need to see a comprehensive vision for education in Colorado. You would see the state coalesce around it.” Daily Camera

How did Colorado’s public pension system end up in trouble less than a decade after a major fix? The simplest explanation is that officials relied on overly optimistic economic forecasts – and ignored opportunities to adjust earlier. “Everyone has failed the citizens of Colorado and members of PERA on this — the legislature, the PERA board, and (Colorado’s) governors,” said Lynn Turner, a member of the PERA board of trustees. “There is plenty of ‘shared blame’ to go around, just as there will need to be ‘shared sacrifice.'” Denver Post

Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee voted against funding the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the agency that sided with a gay couple in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that is currently before the United States Supreme Court. Colorado Politics

Another Colorado lawmaker has been accused of sexual misconduct. A fellow legislator says state Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, twice pinched her buttocks and made inappropriate comments. Other women shared similar stories with reporter Bente Birkeland, but they didn’t want to come forward publicly. KUNC

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, the top Democrat in that chamber, has withdrawn “in protest” from the process of deciding the appropriate discipline after a complaint against state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, was found to be “credible.” KUNC

You think the Colorado governor’s race is crowded? In Kansas, more than 20 people are seeking that state’s top office. And because Kansas has no statutory requirements whatsoever to run for governor, six of the candidates are high school students. The state legislature is trying to change that, though any new requirements wouldn’t go into effect until after this November’s election. “We have age requirements on voters, and I really think that anybody who’s running should be able to vote for themselves,” one lawmaker said. NPR