Five of Colorado’s nine largest school districts have placed property tax hikes on the fall 2012 ballot. Over the past decade all five of the tax-proposing school districts have significantly grown spending on “current” operating costs. From 2005 to 2010, median household incomes in all five counties covered by the five districts fell short of per-pupil school tax revenues. Asking voters to increase property taxes this year may not be an easy task.
Nearly 50 Colorado online education leaders (including school district and charter school staff) and policy experts gathered Monday, January 23, 2012, to help craft a roadmap of digital learning policy priorities for the state. Participants worked together to help identify Colorado’s leading digital learning policy priorities in three major categories: Access and Eligibility, Funding, and Assessment and Accountability. Given a list of policy options that included Digital Learning Now’s recommendations, participants selected those they saw as the most important for Colorado to pursue in the near term and to offer additional ideas or suggestions. According to many of the state’s online leaders, the following policy changes would enhance opportunities for Colorado’s children to achieve educational success.
Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, 41 have a formal bargaining relationship with one or more employee unions. Because Colorado has no defined public-sector labor law, the greatest opportunity to reform restrictive policies and interest group privileges comes at the school board level. Opportunity awaits local education leaders to enhance flexibility, fairness and fiscal responsibility at the bargaining table.
This concise issue brief on K-12 education is part of the comprehensive Citizens’ Budget. The report lays out a road map for Colorado policy makers to implement policies that would close next year’s billion-dollar budget problem and establish a sustainable trend line for balanced budgets into the future, with no increase in taxes or fees. This section explores how Colorado’s current K-12 school funding system works and offers ideas for savings, including a tax credit program to offset private school tuition costs.
Forty-two of Colorado’s 178 school districts bargain exclusively with a local teachers union. Often conducted by tax-funded district employees on both sides, negotiations forge policies that determine the use of taxpayer dollars. Yet only one of the 42 districts has an established policy that thoroughly ensures the public’s right to observe bargaining negotiations.
Jeffco Public Schools has become a national leader among school districts by creating a top-notch financial transparency database. Colorado lawmakers have introduced two new transparency bills in 2010. As proposals are debated and initiatives implemented and upgraded, both state and local policy makers can benefit by understanding the criteria of effective financial transparency.
As the influence of organized labor grows in Colorado’s public sector, so does the need for greater accountability and transparency. Through stricter enforcement of a federal law designed to ferret out union corruption, the U.S. Department of Labor in recent years has set the highest standard for disclosure of union finances. This enforcement has yielded real but limited gains in bringing restitution to members and fee-payers wronged by the malfeasance of certain union officials.
In the interest of expanding public accountability and economic efficiency, Colorado school districts, charter schools, and other local public education agencies ought to follow the lead of state government by exploring online financial transparency.
Author Paul Mueller analyzes performance data from the School Accountability Reports for all 86 rural Colorado school districts, and compared them to demographic factors traditionally associated with lower achievement. Two school districts – Sargent and La Veta – are cited as examples of “beating the odds” with effective instruction despite a high-poverty or high-minority student population.
Amendment 49 on the November 2008 Colorado ballot proposes to limit government payroll deductions to specified items. The amendment effectively prohibits the collection and transfer of funds to private non-charitable groups that lobby government officials and fund campaigns including such groups as political parties, professional associations, and labor unions. Current Colorado law allows government payroll systems to administer and deliver money to these groups.