Students, parents benefit from defeat of Senate Bill 61, charter school funding mandate

The House Education Committee voted down Senate Bill 61, May 9, a proposal that would have forced a one-size-fits-all decree upon school districts to funnel money raised in local mill levy elections to charter schools.

CEA President Kerrie Dallman“Today’s vote is a win for educators, students and families. Our state representatives made the correct move in rejecting this piece of legislation that blatantly favored unfettered charter schools at the expense of the vast majority of students attending public schools all across the state,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “This bill would have siphoned resources away from districts working to support their most vulnerable students. Colorado still shortchanges public education by more than $800 million, so I’m pleased districts will maintain flexibility to decide how to best use their mill levy dollars for the greatest impact in the classroom.”

Educators were critical of SB-61 for attempting to reward charters with more taxpayer funds without any greater measures of accountability or transparency in how these schools raise and spend money to help students succeed.

“CEA members appealed to House members to courageously rip up SB-61 to ensure voters are rewarded with accountability and transparency when they pass mill levy overrides to improve community schools,” said Dallman. “All schools receiving taxpayer money need to show they are upholding strong standards, but charter schools continue to fail educators, parents and students by a stubborn refusal to meet the strict rules of accountability and transparency that neighborhood public schools abide by every day.

“The failure of SB-61 vividly demonstrates a public desire to raise the bar for charter transparency and accountability. The companies that operate charter schools cannot continue to profit off taxpayers with responsibility to no one, and charters certainly can’t receive any favored status from lawmakers when they refuse to lift the veil of their inner workings. Families need an honest look into charter operations so they can make an informed decision about where they send their children to school. Therefore, the CEA calls on the legislature to create transparency and accountability measures that place all schools on an equal playing field,” Dallman added.

Dallman said communities had major reservations about sharing more funds with charters 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 neighborhood public schools.

Dallman also thanked community partners for voicing intense opposition to SB-61, including AFT-Colorado, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, NAACP CO-WY-MT state and local chapters, Colorado AFL-CIO, 9to5, Common Cause and FRESC.

“Many community organizations committed to student opportunity saw that SB-61 was wrong for public schools and would have done nothing to help our most vulnerable children,” Dallman concluded. “Our collective hope is that legislators will come back in 2018 determined to solve the larger funding crisis that affects all public schools and not play political games that only pit schools against one another in competition for the meager resources at hand.”