The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

Will new legislation put D 49 at a disadvantage?

In February, Colorado Sen. Mike Johnston co-sponsored a bill that would create the ìPublic School Finance Act.î Senate Bill 213 would allocate more than $1 billion in funding for kindergarten through grade 12 education.ìOne of the things I always hear out there, which I think is erroneous, is that any new money for K through 12 education is a good thing,î said Brett Ridgway, Falcon School District 49 chief business officer. ìBut it all depends on how that new money is allocated.îRidgway said, based on how much money is received from the state per each pupil enrolled in the district, D 49 is ranked 177 out of 178 school districts. ìThere are 830,000 students in the state, so if you take $1 billion and divide by that number, you come up with almost $1,200 per student, which is what it (the newly allocated money) could provide if things were done equitably,î he said.Based on the formula proposed in Johnstonís bill, D 49 would receive $700 per pupil, rather than $1,200, Ridgway said. ìFalcon School District comes in basically $2.5 million short of its share of the new money,î he said. ìDenver Public Schools comes in $60 million over their share.îAccording to Johnstonís biography posted on, he is the former principal of two schools in Denver: the Joan Farley Academy and the Marvin Foote Youth Detention Center. Both schools are comprised of some of the most at-risk students in Colorado, according to the website.ìSB 213 would take a significant portion of the money and direct it to Denver area schools under the guise of English Language Learners and At Risk funding,î Ridgway said. ìIím not saying that ELL and at-risk students donít need additional funding, but there is a point when that money can be too much.îAlthough D 49 would receive the additional $700 per pupil, the district will still rank No. 177, he said. ìThrough this bill, you (legislators) arenít changing our position at all,î Ridgway said. For a bill that claims to promote equity, that doesnít make sense, he added.Johnston said D 49 stands to gain about $1,000 per pupil due to an increase in special education funding and a new ìFloor Fundingî amendment, which he said was created ìso that no district would fall below that number.îìIt will send over $5 million to Falcon School District alone,î Johnston added. ìThat brings Falcon School District up from $6,200 per pupil to over $7,000 per pupil.îìThe Floor Funding amendment does help and does close the discrepancy, but the amendment is passed with language that says any new funding that comes in from this bill will first go to non-floor funding districts,î Ridgway said. ìBasically, theyíre saying, ëWeíre going to give you money here to shut you up but our intention is to return you to this larger disparity when we can.í Itís not like we are going to turn this money away, but Iím not going to be bought with a temporary improvement.ìThey (proponents of the bill) like to say quite often that this is a 21st century funding mechanism for 21st century education. It really comes down to just about $100 million or 10 percent for new ideas and the other 90 percent for old ideas at a higher level of funding. I dispute the 21st century funding claim; nothing says 20th century funding like when we throw money at something and say, ëLetís see what happens.í”Ridgway said that D 49 stands head and shoulders above most districts in the state as far as innovation but that isnít being rewarded.Johnston said the innovation fund allocates 75 percent to schools that have any plans for improvement, which he said is linked to innovation. The other 25 percent is linked to innovative practices as a whole district, he said. Ultimately, a school could benefit twice because the 75 percent is available for improvements and innovations needed at the school level, while the other 25 percent would go to an innovative district as a whole, Johnston said. He said Evans International Elementary School would be a ìlikely candidateî for the 75 percent portion and D 49 as a whole would be up for the 25 percent.Ridgway doesnít agree. ìThe 75 percent is still prioritized for turnaround and priority improvement schools,î he said. ìThose schools need that money anyway, itís not innovation. Innovation is new thinking and new processes. We are only eligible for the 25 percent because none of our schools falls into the turnaround category.îLegislators have called the bill a collaborative effort and thatís not true, Ridgway said. ìNo one (at the state level) has talked to anyone at Falcon School District,î he said. ìWhat this bill has now become is a simple partisan measure. There is no collaboration.îìWeíve had public meetings all over the state over two years,î Johnston said. ìWeíve held over 200 meetings and have been to El Paso County several times, most recently in the fall. We had 2,500 stakeholders involved in those meetings. This bill was released publicly in draft form four months ago, and we offered a chance for feedback. Many people would say this is the most unprecedented public inclusion process that theyíve seen on any piece of legislation.îRidgway said the meetings were informative in nature, not collaborative.When the bill was proposed in February, there was a significant lack of information and data to support the billís claim of increasing funding equity, Ridgway said. ìThere were literally no data resources in February (when the bill was presented),î he said. ìI got a copy of the draft bill then and went through and built a spreadsheet from scratch. I evaluated every school district in the state to determine what this means.îIn March and April, Ridgway testified at both the House and Senate Education Committee meetings in response to the proposed bill. ìThe numbers I presented and the conclusions I made are still the same,î he said. ìI presented them their own data.î Based on the responses he got, Ridgway said he doesnít anticipate a significant change to the bill, resulting in his predicted outcome.Another issue Ridgway has with the bill is the per-pupil rate determination time period. According to the bill, ìThe Funding for school districts and charter schools is based on the number of pupils enrolled as of a specific pupil enrollment count date, generally October 1 of each year.î SB 213 proposes that enrollment measurements will be taken quarterly instead of once a year, Ridgway said. After five quarter measurements have been taken, an average of those numbers will be used to drive the funding, he said.ìWe stand to be helped by this part because our enrollment changes frequently,î Ridgway said.The proposed bill also states the following: ìEnacting this article, in conjunction with the passage of a statewide measure to increase state tax revenues for the purpose of funding public education, are necessary and critical first steps toward achieving the ongoing maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools.îRidgway said this means the $1 billion will be funded by increasing taxes.The Colorado Department of Education wrote the following in an email to The New Falcon Herald: ìThe State Board has not taken a position on SB 213.îìThe bill will pass and all indications are that Gov. Jon Hickenlooper will sign the bill, despite earlier statements that he will require bipartisan support,î Ridgway said. ìWe will accept the results, of course, and weíve been strong and vocal in the advocacy for the district, the students and the parents and will continue to do that.ìWeíve proven in the last two years that we donít just sit back and complain about our funding status; we stand up and get innovative despite the inequities of K-12 funding.î

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers