Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed three bills that make important investments in Colorado's public schools, with an emphasis on programs to support at-risk students, close the achievement gap and put students on a path to success.
These are important bills for Colorado students and their families and, ultimately, our state and economy. Adequate funding is not the only factor affecting education outcomes, but it is among the most important. These investments follow years of cutbacks during the Great Recession.
Two of the bills, the Student Success Act (House Bill 14-1292) and the School Finance Act (House Bill 14-1298), are the main funding bills for public education this year.
When discussions on these bills first started, we urged lawmakers to maximize the resources provided for reducing our schools' $1 billion funding shortfall (i.e., "buy down the negative factor"). If they earmarked funding, we said it should be targeted only to programs known to narrow the achievement gap.
In the end, after much discussion and productive debate, we're happy to report that the bills do just that. Specifically, the bills contain these key provisions:
- $110 million in unrestricted funds to local school districts for reducing the negative factor
- $27 million in additional funding for English language learner (ELL) programs
- $18 million in additional funding for early literacy efforts
- $17 million for 5,000 additional slots in the Colorado Preschool Program for at-risk children
The third bill (Senate Bill 14-150) expands and provides additional money for the Colorado School Counselor Corps Program. The Bell has long supported this important program, which has proven effective in helping students to succeed, notably by reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates. SB 150 will increase program funding by $3 million annually.
In testifying for legislation that established the counselor program in 2008 (House Bill 08-1370), the Bell's Frank Waterous said that "a broad range of studies clearly show that effective school counseling contributes greatly to the personal and academic success of students."
We thank the sponsors for carrying these bills:
HB 1292 – Reps. Millie Hamner and Carole Murray; Sens. Mike Johnston and Jessie Ulibarri
HB 1298 – Reps. Millie Hamner and John Buckner; Sens. Andy Kerr and Pat Steadman
SB 150 – Sens. Nancy Todd and Rachel Zenzinger; Rep. Millie Hamner
And we thank Gov. Hickenlooper for signing them.