Rep. Cathy Kipp, a freshman Democrat from Fort Collins, is proposing a bill, HB 1190, that threatens school equality in Colorado. On contentious issues like education funding (and why, exactly is this contentious?), it can be rare to find a brokered solution. And yet, in 2017, both sides of the aisle came together to pass a law that shares mill levy overrides with charter schools.
In 2017, Chalkbeat reported: “According to a legislative analyst, a collective $34 million in local tax increases is not being shared equitably with charter schools. In total, 108,793 students were enrolled in charters during the 2015-16 school year. And charter schools are increasingly serving a more at-risk student population.”
It’s essential to remember that charter schools are public schools. While they tend to be closer to the ground, with higher percentages of direct parent involvement, and they are designed to meet direct needs of the community they are built in, they are still 100 percent public. Anyone who believes that our public schools deserve appropriate funding should believe in the equality of charter schools and in spreading the funds to all public schools within a given district. While the 2017 bill made great strides in this direction, it still did not equalize the funding charter schools receive. In comparison to the more typical neighborhood public schools, many charter schools are still underfunded in Colorado.
Prior to the 2018 election, Beck Research released its fourth annual school choice survey results. Sixty-three percent of likely voters strongly backed the idea of school choice, with an even stronger percentage of Latino voters (72 percent) and black voters (66 percent) supporting it. The survey further explained that, by a ratio of 2 to 1, parents of children in typical neighborhood public schools also supported school choice.
By and large, whether the discussion centers on the ability of parents to redirect tax money to the school of their choice or the equality of funding for charter schools, parents agree that all children should be given an equal opportunity to receive a successful, well-funded education — one that best meets their individual needs.
This is the climate in which Rep. Kipp brings her bill. She recently told Chalkbeat reporter Erica Meltzer that since “Charter schools have always said they can do better for cheaper,” it’s on them to do exactly that. Yet the question remains: how does this opinion, espoused by an elected official, actually benefit the children of Colorado?
One of the key points in Rep. Kipp’s bill is that, when the money is stripped from charter schools, it will be returned to the general fund. Kipp is not attempting to redirect money to the neighborhood public schools or any other specific educational goal. She is, quite literally, taking money from children to give it back to the legislature to spend in any way they want.
For anyone who believes our children deserve a well-funded and successful education, such a proposal should be concerning.
Kristi Burton Brown is a constitutional attorney and a suburban mom in Colorado.