School choice advocates in Colorado are calling for legislation that would guarantee all students receive the same funding, whether they’re attending traditional or charter schools or other programs.
“The big fight this year will be over the funding,” said state Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs). “We have to continue to make sure we don’t discriminate between students, no matter what type of schools they choose.”
Luke Ragland, vice president of policy at Colorado Succeeds, a non-profit coalition of Colorado business leaders supporting school choice, said students who attend nontraditional schools receive about 20 percent less funding than those attending traditional government schools.
The state requires 95 percent of state funding given to schools for each of their students, roughly $7,000, to follow the student, but school choice attendees miss out on other benefits enjoyed by students at traditional schools.
“Those charters might not have access to facilities and buildings and may have to pay for them with part of per-pupil funding,” Ragland said. “And they might not have access to local mill levies and local revenue.”
Calls for Test Score Accountability
Ragland says Colorado Succeeds is pushing to make sure the state publishes student test scores in 2017 because the information helps parents make the best choice for their kids. The state skipped publishing the scores this year  because of recent changes made to the state’s standardized tests, but Ragland says he’s heard rumors some educators and lawmakers may want to delay the information release for several years.
“There’s a strong push to delay accountability and school ratings,” Ragland said. “We want to make sure the accountability system is available.”
Hill says he thinks there will be a push for other proposals as well, such as legislation that would increase the availability of courses that award college credit in high schools, which could help to reduce loan burdens for those who pursue higher education.
Hill also wants to see a greater emphasis placed on alternatives to attending a four-year college—such as certifications in trucking, cosmetology, and plumbing—for students who aren’t interested in college or don’t want the loan burden that often comes with a university education.
“Dealing with debt is a big frustration for students, but you have to have a good, well-paying job to take care of your family,” said Hill.
Arthur Kane ([email protected]) writes from Denver, Colorado. An earlier version of this article was published by Watchdog.org. An earlier version of this article was published at http://watchdog.org/254661/school-choice-advocates-seek-funding-parity/. Reprinted with permission.