Residents heard about the changes to Jefferson County school’s funding that Senate Bill 213 would create at the Lakewood legislation’s monthly town hall meeting April 7.
The bill, also known as the “Future School Finance Act,” is sponsored by Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and takes a look at how schools are financed for the first time in 20 years.
Voters would have to pass a tax increase in November before any changes can be made.
“This bill has been tweaked a little over time, but it hasn’t had any major overhauls at all,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. “We’ll pass this year’s school finance bill, but SB-213 looks to the future.”
Damion LeeNatali, chief of staff for Johnston, and Leslie Dahlkemper, president of the Jeffco School Board, were both at the meeting to give information about the bill and the effect it could have on the county.
While Dahlkemper was there to discuss certain features of the bill, she noted the board is not taking an official position on the bill yet.
“There are three areas we’re really looking at — adequacy of funding, equity of funding and fiscal sustainability,” LeeNatali said. “We really need to support our education system.”
Some of the things that the bill would look at are underfunded programs like full-day kindergarten, early childhood learning, special education, students who live in poverty and English as second language students.
LeeNatali also said the bill would look at how the state’s various districts are funded, and try to find a way to make it more equitable.
“Taxpayers need to know where their school dollars are going, so we’d also be looking at creating a website where people can see very clearly how their money is being spent,” he said.
Dahlkemper said that some things the district likes about the bill — while keeping in mind the district isn’t taking an position — are the funding for full-day kindergarten and early learning, as well as some money that would go to gift and talented programs.
“When we talk about the bill, we talk about what it would mean for Jeffco,” she said. “Right now it would mean around $661 more spent per student, but those numbers could very likely change.”
Dahlkemper said that there are about 100 different languages spoken by students in Jeffco, and while the majority of English language learners are Spanish, there are other cultural students that need help learning as well.
Many of the residents who attended the meeting were retired or current teachers, who wanted to see what kind of changes were possible.
James Buck, a math teacher at Lakewood High School, said he attended to find out more about the details of the bill.
“I’m really interesting in learning about the funding formula,” he said. “I know good teachers who can’t afford to teach and I wanted to see if there’s any hope for them.”