When voting on a particular amendment, Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) asked, “How can I vote on something we haven’t discussed?” To which the committee chairwoman, Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster) suggested he just “give it a shot” and offered up a coin to flip. Despite Senator Hill’s frustration and objections, the vote went ahead.
Many testifying urged the committee, and the General Assembly as a whole, to slow down the process and really put forth some substantive reforms. These pleas clearly fell on deaf ears – at least in regards to the committee chairwoman.
Sen. Johnston has lauded the bill as a once in a generation opportunity for education reform, but the bill has been widely criticized as nothing more than a redistribution effort funding by a major tax hike that is short on reform.
Indeed, the bill diverts money from suburban and rural school districts to the city districts. How does it do that? Well, currently students defined as both at-risk and English Language Learners (ELL) can only be counted as one or the other. Under the new act, these students can be counted as both – or twice. As city districts like Denver and Aurora tend to have far more of these students, they are given more money – they get to double dip.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with SB 213, though. Although Sen. Heath’s declared that “there is no school district and no child in this state who is not going to benefit from this bill,” he also said, “some kids will benefit more than others,” which is much closer to the truth.
One of the biggest criticisms of this bill is that it is short on reform – very short. Sen. Mark Scheffel (R-Parker) even asked during testimony, “where’s the education reform in this bill?” There is no correlation between increased funding and better quality schools. Just take a look at Washington, D.C., which spends around $20,000 per student with appalling results.
Some Colorado school districts are already excelling without needing such a significant increase in funding, as Cherry Creek School District’s CFO Guy Belleville pointed out in his testimony. On the other hand, many rural districts testified that they will continue to receive the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. As Durango’s superintendent, Dan Snowberger, stated, “We are the biggest loser here.”
What might be the biggest criticism or concern for taxpayers is the enormous tax increase that accompanies the bill. In this economy, a tax increase is not something most citizens are interested in especially if their money will end up going to a district other than their own. Most importantly, though, this is really just throwing money at the problem without any real solutions tied to that expense – an expense that will cost the taxpayers greatly and unfortunately have little (if any) positive impact on the students it is supposed to be helping.