Superintendents from all over Colorado gather to urge lawmakers for more education funding

DENVER - School district superintendents from across the state couldn’t wait for the 2016 legislative session to begin to push for more education funding.

167 of the 178 district superintendents from across the state were in the Capitol today to urge lawmakers that a long-term education funding solution needs to be reached.

The group says the negative factor, passed in the wake of an economic downturn in 2010 to save on school funding, is pulling $50 million per year away from K-12 schools state-wide.

For districts like Adams County #50, which has 80 percent of its families fighting poverty, the state’s funding is critical.

“We’re totally relying for the most part on state support,” said Adams County #50 Superintendent Pamela Swanson.  “This is not our first year as superintendents to come to the table trying to partner with our legislators on this issue.”

School leaders from around the state are reporting the same type of struggles. 

“If we had those dollars, some of the things we could be doing is have councilors in our elementary schools, we could have full day kindergarten we could have more appropriate class sizes,” said Bruce Messenger, who’s the Boulder Valley Schools Superintendent.

The school leaders are asking that state law makers take up changes in the state’s tax policy to allot for more money in education.  They say it was understandable when education funding dipped with the economy, but now that the economy has recovered and property tax dollars meant for education are still flowing into the state’s general fund, law makers need to filter more money into districts by reducing that negative factor.

“The short and long-term hope is that we need to address tax policy in this state as we look at what’s happening demographically in our state, and this thriving economy, we need to figure out the right balance of taxation,” said Messenger.

Lawmakers say the health of our schools impacts more than just those with students in school, but every tax payer too.

“Our property values, our economy, our way of life in Colorado depends on having a robust and well-funded 21st century education system and we’re just not getting it done so far,” said State Senator Andy Kerr. 

Kerr says his first bill this session will address adding full day kindergarten state-wide.  He says its likely school funding won’t come up in the legislature until late March, after the next budget projection.

Of those in attendance, there was one notable no-show.  Douglas County Schools Superintendent Liz Fagan says she doesn't agree with one particular funding idea of the superintendent group and for that reason has not signed on.  She released a statement to Denver7 outlining her support for a better school funding formula in Colorado and says she stands with the other district leaders on the overarching issue of school funding revision.