HB20-1418 (Becker / Todd) Public School Finance
Passed as a bill each year separate from the budget, the School Finance Act (SFA) sets funding levels for Colorado’s 178 school districts for next school year. This year’s SFA is longer than usual because it incorporates several changes that were necessary because of the COVID crisis. Because of lower state revenues, schools will see about a 5 percent per pupil funding cut. Other provisions include changes to:
- Mill levies – the bill addresses a structural inequity in Colorado’s property tax system and interprets previous reductions to mill levies that led to this structural inequity as made in error. The SFA takes corrective action to implement a Supreme Court ruling (Mesa County Board of Commissioners v. State of Colorado). The change would (a) restore school district total program mill levies to the number of voter-approved mills the district imposed as of the date of its de-Brucing election without regard to unauthorized CDE reductions OR 27 mills, whichever is less, and (b) offset any levy that is higher with a corresponding credit for the amount of the difference. This means the language has no impact on property tax or revenue collected because of the offsetting mill levy credit. Implementing the Mesa ruling establishes a placeholder giving the state legal authority to reduce or phase out credits over a period of time to develop a more equitable school finance system.
- Grant programs – cancels or delays several CDE grant programs, including Counselor Corps, computer education grants, various teacher workforce programs, the Rural Advanced Placement program and the Grow Your Own Teacher program.
- READ Act – indicates that 2018-19 enrollment numbers will be used to determine district funding for READ interventions.
- Accountability – requires CDE to use the school/district rating from the 2018-19 school year because of assessment pause this spring, and requires CDE to convene stakeholders to review how remote learning, accountability, assessments, accreditation and educator evaluations should be done in 2020-21 and beyond.
- BEST – cut to Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) cash grants by $100 million.
The Children’s Campaign supports the bill. We have been drawing attention to inequity in Colorado’s property tax system for many years, and this year’s SFA makes a necessary substantive change that gives the state legal authority to revisit the way district mill levies were set and develop a more equitable school finance system.
House voted to concur with Senate amendments and voted to repass the bill on a vote of 39-22. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.
June 12, 2020
The bill passed 3rd reading in the Senate on a 20-15 vote and now heads back to the House for concurrence with an amendment that was added during 2nd reading.