Back Senate Bill 61 to rightly provide equitable funding
Educators, education advocates and politicians frequently describe public education reform as the civil rights issue of our time. This may or may not be true, but there is one thing I know for sure, better education promotes better futures for kids, our communities and our state.
I'm not just referring to college-level education. On the contrary, I believe quality education starting with our youngest scholars and continuing through adulthood has the most dramatic impact not only on the individual but on their families and their communities, and on a broader scale, the economic health of our state.
All this to say that instead of asking "How can I ensure a good education for my kids?," it benefits us all to ask, "How can we ensure a good education for all of Colorado's children?"
Support Senate Bill 61.
The bill, which has bipartisan and bicameral support, guarantees that all public school students receive equitable funding for their education - regardless of the type of public school they attend, be it traditional public school or public charter school.
Around a dozen Colorado school districts give charters their fair share of mill levy money, yet the majority do not. This leaves roughly 43,000 children shortchanged every year, receiving just 80 cents on the dollar compared with their peers in traditional public schools.
I am not partial to increasing funding for one type of school or another based on their ideology. Personally, I support both traditional and charter schools that consistently demonstrate that they are improving educational outcomes for students.
Rather, I support equitable funding because a failure to do so directly harms tens of thousands of students across the state, particularly low-income students and students of color.
Many of these children would be otherwise trapped in continuously underperforming or failing neighborhood schools without the high-quality options that school choice gives them.
It seems there are many myths surrounding public charter schools and the students they serve. Charter schools in Colorado are free, public schools accountable to their authorizer and the state. They work with diverse students who mirror the diversity of Colorado. Currently, 46.9 percent of Colorado charter school students identify as students of color, compared with 45.7 percent of the state's traditional public school students.
Public charter schools are also posting impressive results for kids. In 2015, students in charter schools were more likely to score proficient or advanced in math, reading and writing on the state assessment than their peers in traditional public schools. This result was true across all demographic groups. While there might be a rational argument for the funding discrepancy if the performance of public charter schools was lagging behind traditional public schools, that is decidedly not the case.
Opponents of the bill will point to voter intention when passing the mill levy. However, a recent review of ballot language data from various districts' mill levy overrides over the years doesn't demonstrate a clear intention to exclude charter school students. Additionally, this legislation only applies to mills that were passed for a specific program or grade level that the charter has; if part of a mill was passed for just arts education, for example, and the charter school doesn't provide arts education, then the charter wouldn't stand to benefit from that portion of the dollars.
As a parent, business leader and civic leader, I want the debates surrounding our state's public education system to be solely about kids. If this were so, teachers unions and membership organizations representing school boards and school districts would drop their opposition to funding equity legislation.
After all, charter school students are public school students. They need and deserve every resource and opportunity available to their peers in traditional schools.
When we say all kids, we should really mean all kids. I urge our state legislators to adopt this mentality and pass SB 61.
Ken Tuchman is chairman and CEO of TeleTech. He serves on Colorado Succeeds board of trustees.