The Senate ignored concerns of diminished local control over school funding by approving Senate Bill 61, March 14. The measure, a state mandate which would force districts to funnel funds raised in local mill levy elections to charter schools, now moves to the House.
“Senate Bill 61 is the first step in bringing the DeVos-Trump agenda to Colorado,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, vice president of the Colorado Education Association. “Through this legislation, charter schools can siphon resources away from districts without meeting the strict rules that have been set for traditional public schools. All schools receiving taxpayer money need to show they are upholding strong standards of transparency, but this bill only rewards for-profit charter interests while failing to hold their schools accountable to parents and community stakeholders.”
SB-61 is backed by Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy arm of the Koch brothers, and mirrors the unashamed promotion of for-profit charter schools championed and personally funded by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during her lobbying career in Michigan.
“The DeVos charter school agenda does not promote opportunity for our students. The strategy inherent in this bill pits schools against one another in competition for the meager resources at hand,” said Baca-Oehlert. “Passing SB-61 will take Colorado down the DeVos-Trump slippery slope to their goal of private school vouchers for every community and school district.”
Districts have little-to-no oversight over charters, but will be forced to share funds with schools that can already accept unlimited gifts, grants and donations from outside benefactors, and from federal funding sources only designated for charters. Since 2010, an influx of more than $82 million in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education’ Charter School Program has only benefited charter schools in Colorado. The Malone Family Foundation’s gifts to the Denver School of Science and Technology, totaling $14 million since 2011, exemplifies additional charter school funding sources that aren’t available to traditional neighborhood public schools.
“We cannot afford to aid and abet an extreme corporate agenda for education reform, being forced upon Colorado by Betsy DeVos and her pro-voucher cronies, that allows charter school companies to profit off taxpayers with responsibility to no one,” added Baca-Oehlert. “SB-61 is typical of the funding schemes pushed by DeVos that are wrong for public schools and do nothing to help our most vulnerable students.”
Additionally, the bill is unnecessary as many districts already have developed revenue-sharing agreements with their charters that work well without state interference. If charter school companies are demanding even more money, Baca-Oehlert said it is time to “lift the veil” so families can make informed decisions about where they send their children to school. CEA calls on the legislature to create transparency measures and quality standards that place all schools on an equal playing field.
“SB-61 is the type of legislation favored by Betsy DeVos and other corporate education raiders who aren’t ashamed to come after the modest resources of our neighborhood schools,” concluded Baca-Oehlert. “Our state representatives, regardless of party affiliation, need to firmly reject this DeVos-style legislation that blatantly favors unfettered charter schools at the expense of the vast majority of students attending public schools across Colorado. We appeal on all House members to have the courage to rip up SB-61 and ensure voters are rewarded with accountability when they pass mill levy overrides to improve their community schools.”