The Fight Continues
Background on the Mill Levy Override Inequity
Students attending district schools—traditional public schools, innovation schools, and district authorized charter public schools—have access to over 50 percent more public funding from Mill Levy Overrides ($1.3 billion dollars, or $1,500 per pupil) than students attending CSI schools located in the same school district as CSI schools do not have access to local tax revenue. In recognition of this inequity, the Legislature created the CSI Mill Levy Equalization Fund through House Bill 17-1375, giving CSI schools access to funds.
Last year, CSI schools were allocated an average of $317 per pupil from the Mill Levy Equalization fund, compared to the average $1,535 per pupil from Mill Levy Overrides across Colorado school districts. This year, CSI is requesting an additional $5 million to the CSI Mill Levy Equalization Fund, which would amount to an average of $606 per pupil (again compared to the roughly $1,500 per pupil that districts are receiving.) CSI’s current budget request (that is in Governor Polis’ Budget and was in Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget) is still significantly short of full equalization but would be an increase in current levels of funding.
Stripping CSI Schools Access to Mill Levy Equalization
Last week, House Bill 19-1190 was heard by the House Education Committee. This bill was introduced by Representative Cathy Kipp and sought to strip CSI schools of Mill Levy Equalization Fund, which was created in House Bill 17-1375 in recognition that CSI schools do not have access to local tax revenue that districts can access.
Our partners and schools came together, and the bill was ultimately defeated by a vote of 12-1.
In addition to the testimony from our partners at the Colorado League of Charter Schools and Democrats for Education Reform, representatives from four CSI schools waited hours to share their personal stories. They were authentic and incredibly moving.
In addition to myself, the following people testified against this bill:
- Dan Schaller, Vice President of State and Local Policy, Colorado League of Charter Schools
- Jen Walmer, Colorado State Director, Democrats for Education Reform
- Josh See, Director of Advising, Colorado Early Colleges
- LaMon Bliss, student, Colorado Early Colleges
- Mary Faith Hall, Executive Director, Thomas MacLaren School
- Hannah Parsons, parent and board member, Thomas MacLaren School
- Emily Grace Kirkwood, student, Thomas MacLaren School
- Steven Bartholomew, Executive Director, New Legacy Charter School
- Sabrina Suarez, student, New Legacy Charter School, and her son Avyan Perez
- Teresa Woods, Ph.D, Principal, Mountain Song Community School
- Sean Cayton, parent, Mountain Song Community School
These speakers deserve the gratitude of the CSI community. Sabrina Suarez, a student at New Legacy Charter School, had her 20-month old with her and endured a long day of waiting to share her story. Read more here: https://denverite.com/2019/03/06/in-a-bipartisan-vote-colorado-lawmakers-preserve-funding-for-state-charter-schools/
Sean Cayton, a parent from Mountain Song Community School, also documented his experience at the Capitol: https://www.csindy.com/coloradosprings/storytelling-through-pictures-dr-woods-goes-to-denver/Content?oid=18824897
As I listened to our testimony, I was reminded of the essential work that is done every day in CSI schools. As I listened to those providing testimony in opposition of the CSI Mill Levy Equalization Fund, I was struck by how much misinformation that exists about charter schools broadly and CSI schools specifically. It reinforced that we must continue to share the facts and our personal stories just to maintain what we have without losing ground. I am so grateful for the hard work of the CSI and charter community and encourage you all to keep fighting!