Q & A

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Here are some commonly asked questions with answers.

HB 18-1232  Q&A

Colorado Superintendents’ New School Funding Distribution Formula


Q: Why is there a bill?

A: For years superintendents have been told by lawmakers that in order to see changes there would need to be a collective voice wanting the same thing so lawmakers would not have to pick and choose whom to support:  urban, suburban, rural, plains, mountains, rich or poor.  Therefore superintendents responded by collaborating together over the past several years to best understand the demands, challenges and requirements each district faces in order to determine how funds should be distributed in our schools.  This analysis was presented to the Legislature with widespread support from superintendents across Colorado.


Q: What do Superintendents want?

A: This is a very simple ask.  Superintendents want the Legislature to approve a bill that has widespread support across the state knowing that the formula is not enacted until additional revenue comes along.  However, by having the new policy in statute, when additional funds are put toward K-12 education, we know it will be distributed in a way that is supported by superintendents across the state and best able to help all students meet the requirements in our state.


Q: What does this bill cost?

A: The bill has a fiscal note of $0.  There is no cost to implement this bill.  However, the bill is not implemented until citizens of Colorado vote to provide a new source of revenue.  


Q: Where does the money come from?

A: The bill requires that a new source of revenue must be approved by the citizens of Colorado.  The bill is not tied to any individual effort, but rather was created to be used as a roadmap for any public school champion willing to lead a statewide election.  


Q: Does this bill circumvent the Interim Committee on School Finance?

A1: Not at all.  There is a great deal of work that needs to be done by the committee that can only be done by Legislators such as concerns about:  

  1. Taxpayer equity, such as how many mills locals pay toward their own schools.  

  2. The balance between the State Share and the Local Share that feeds into the school finance formula.  

  3. How local mill levy overrides impact equitable programming across the state.  

All of these discussions need Legislative leadership.  The work of the Superintendents is strictly a policy decision of how revenue is distributed to meet the expectations on schools.  If anything, it takes one complex discussion off the plate of the Interim Committee so they can focus on issues best decided by elected officials.

A2: It is important to note that the work of the superintendents was well underway long before the Interim Committee was conceived.  When the Interim Committee bill was being drafted, superintendents met with lawmakers letting them know of their work and asked to be part of the Interim Committee process.   


Q: Do all school districts benefit from this model?

A: Yes, all school districts win in that their funding will at least be restored to 2009-2010 levels.  Some districts more and some less based on characteristics of students attending the district.  However, it was an initial goal of the bill to ensure all school districts, at a minimum, are made whole from the Budget Stabilization Factor.  The smallest increase to a district is 11% and many see increases of over 30%.


Q: Don’t we need a Statewide vision for public schools first?

A: Superintendents are all for a Statewide vision for public education and will actively participate in the process underway led by our Commissioner Katy Anthes.  However, we have rigorous expectations for our schools already in law today and are in desperate need of resources to meet those requirements now.  We need to address the inequities today and we can adjust in the future should a new vision change our direction.  


Q: What do Superintendents mean by a “student-centric” distribution formula?

A: Superintendents want the new act to be one that is grounded in the services students need so that all students may reach our graduation requirements and leave our schools prepared for career or college and life.  Therefore, more of the per pupil funding is derived from what students need for services than how districts are different.  For example… Englewood and Steamboat Springs are nearly identical in size.  Under this formula Steamboat would increase its budget by about $3.9 million.  Englewood would increase its budget by about $5.9 million because there are more students attending Englewood schools who receive additional factor funding because they live in poverty.  


Q: How is the poverty factor determined?

A: The poverty factor is based on the number of students who qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Meal program.  The federal government uses a formula based on household income and the number of people in the household to determine if they should be eligible for free meals at school or for reduced priced meals at school.  This is a highly regulated program with random and consistent verifications.  In the current school finance act, districts only receive funding for students who receive free lunch.  This bill would expand the poverty category to students who are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunch.


Q: How is this distribution formula transparent?

A: This formula is more transparent than the current model because you can easily back into the dollars your district receives by looking at each student count and its weight.  The current formula is multiplicative and is not user-friendly to determine why your district receives the money it does.  Superintendents believe that local citizens should be able to easily access this information and understand why schools are funded at different levels.


Q: What are the most significant changes from the 1994 Act proposed in this bill?

A1: The 1994 act was the best thinking at the time.  It was focused on the differences in districts with the factors dominated by the enrollment size, cost of living and personnel costs.  This formula has the majority of the weights focused on the students attending the school with some consideration for district differences.

A2: The 1994 act started with a finite amount of money, then backed into district amounts in a manner that seems most fair.  This formula starts with a solid base, then adds money for students, and then district characteristics and comes to a total based on what is needed, not what is available in the budget today.


Q: Why is there a size factor?

A: The size factor could just as easily be called, the economies of scale factor.  There is a difference in what can be provided for students in a school system of 300 compared to a school system of 3,000, and especially when compared to 80,000.  Colorado is very unique in that our districts vary dramatically in size.  This is a way to adjust so that a student can have quality opportunities whether attending a school district with 35 students or one with 90,000 students.


Q: Why aren’t all superintendents in support of this proposal?

As you can imagine, Superintendents have different ideas, lead in their districts differently, have access to different resources, and represent different communities.  Not every community feels the same sense of urgency.  A few have expressed concerns of specific technical aspects of the formula, while others do not agree that our 24 year old formula is broken, or may simply like to see the process done differently.  Given all of our differences, it is amazing to have 171 out of 178 (96%) in agreement on something this specific when four years ago there was only 168 superintendents signed on to a letter to the Legislature asking for a reduction in what was then known as the negative factor.  Through the legislative process, it is the hope of superintendents that some work can be done with the bill to bring more on board.


Questions and Answers (will be updated as questions are received):