DENVER (CBS4) – A fight over funding for charter schools in Colorado could affect every student in the state’s public school system.
The $6.5 billion funding bill determines how the state will spend money on education. But with just five days left in the current legislative session, lawmakers are still at odds about how the money should be divvied up.
The issue is whether public charter schools should receive an equal cut of local tax dollars. Under the current budget plan, charter schools do not get the same amount of funding as other public schools.
State Sen. Angela Williams calls it discrimination.
“There’s about 50,000 kids in our state, in which districts are not sharing that equal mill levy override,” Williams told CBS4.
Williams and state Sen. Owen Hill passed a bill out of the senate to address those funding differences, but it stalled in the house. Now Hill hopes an amendment to the School Financial Act will help share the wealth.
“I made a promise to parents and students and teachers that everyone would have equal opportunity. I am not giving up until all students are treated equally,” said Hill.
Kerrie Dallman, President of the Colorado Education Association, says local school boards — not the state — should decide how the money is spent.
“It’s really concerning that Republicans and Democrats are playing politics with the School Finance Act,” Dallman said.
She says if charter schools want the same money, they should have the same accountability.
“We would want to see, absolutely, transparency and accountability, and right now that does not exist for charter schools,” added Dallman.
Hill responded saying, “We already have equal transparency and accountability requirements. The reality is, we are saying, in a bipartisan way, in the house and the senate, we are going to treat all students equally. Now if that’s playing politics, I’d like her to justify that.”
Debate over this critical school funding act will likely go down to the final hours of the legislative session. Until lawmakers make a decision, school district spending decisions on everything from class sizes to bus service are on hold.