It’s Time to Put Students First in Colorado's School Finance Formula

Today, the House Education Committee will meet on historic legislation – a bill 30 years in the making.

HB24-1448, introduced by House Speaker Julie McCluskie, Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, House Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, and Senator Rachel Zenzinger, will update Colorado’s outdated and inequitable school finance formula.

This is a historic moment in Colorado – the last time the State made significant changes to this formula was in 1994.

To contextualize, this means that the last time Colorado updated the way we fund schools, the internet was not a daily part of most of our lives. A new animated Disney movie, The Lion King, debuted in theaters. And a business owner by the name of Jeff Bezos had just founded a little “online bookstore” out of his garage.

We now have artificial intelligence, Beyonce in a live-action Lion King, and Amazon has taken over our lives. So much of our world has changed, yet we continue to fund education using the same antiquated method we did 30 years ago.

Thinking about these changes begs the question: What business would remain relevant with few changes in financial planning for 30 years?

HB24-1448 will build on the success of buying down the Budget Stabilization Factor by adding over $500 million to our funding formula, increasing funding for every district in the state. It fixes the “Order of Operations” to make the formula simpler and more understandable. And, it creates a funding floor for districts in which their new funding cannot drop beneath fiscal year 2024-25 under current law.

Most importantly, this legislation will ensure students are put first, particularly those in our communities who need the most support. This new legislation will increase student weights for students who are at-risk, English Language Learners, and/or who receive special education services.

Last year, I had the honor of serving on the State’s School Finance Task Force. This Task Force – comprised of 17 leaders from diverse backgrounds across the state – convened with a specific mission: to develop recommendations to modernize Colorado’s school finance system. We came together with a variety of perspectives, from urban to rural school districts, parents, teachers, and education advocates who have been fighting for education reform for decades. We oriented around equity for Colorado’s students, and HB24-1448 is built firmly upon these recommendations. To be sure, more can and should be done to ensure all of Colorado’s learners are educated to their fullest potential, but HB24-1448 is the right first step.

Colorado’s current school funding formula is outdated, inequitable, and not meeting the needs of our students. It’s time for change.

photo of
Sarah Swanson