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Colorado needs to make up for school funding losses

Endorsed by 174 Colorado superintendents representing more than 92 percent of the public school students in our state, this statement communicates our collective position on the foundational issue of public school funding.

To meet the expectations that have been set forth for Colorado's schools and students, we must receive adequate funding to carry out this important work. We see both short-term and long-term challenges to adequately funding Colorado's schools. This position statement addresses both short- and long-term aspects of these challenges.

Short-term challenges:

We are appreciative of the efforts last year to begin restoring school funding to constitutionally directed levels. But in spite of this effort, significant challenges remain as last year's $110 million allocation represents only a little over 10 percent of what is being withheld from schools annually through the negative factor.

We are also appreciative of the increased level of school funding reflected in Gov. Hickenlooper's FY 2015-16 state budget request. However, we believe there is an opportunity to make even greater investments in public school funding during the 2015 legislative session. To this end:

1. We propose that in addition to the funding outlined in the governor's 2015-16 state budget request, the state provide:

.$50 million to school districts as a per-pupil allocation based on poverty levels as defined by the number of students eligible for either free or reduced-price meals, and

.$20 million as a per-pupil allocation to districts defined as "small rural" school districts by the Rural Education Council in 2013.

2. We further propose that decisions about the specific allocations and uses of the aforementioned funds, as well as funds included in the governor's state budget request, should be made by local boards of education and not be directed by policymakers at the state level. More specifically, the legislature should avoid requiring expenditure of any of these funds toward specific programs, reforms, mandates or other earmarks.

Long-term challenges:

While we hold that the short term steps outlined above will provide some necessary relief for distressed Colorado schools, the more chronic problem of a structurally flawed system of financing Colorado schools still exists.

As such, we encourage, support, and are ready to assist Colorado's policymakers in the work of identifying solutions to the chronic funding dilemmas imposed by the myriad statutory and constitutional conflicts that currently exist in our state. In absence of this work and a resulting stable, reasonable and adequate funding of schools in Colorado, we will continue to fall short of the excellent and globally competitive education system our students deserve.

Rocco Fuschetto

Ignacio School District superintendent

Troy Zabel

Bayfield School District superintendent