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Colo. Lawmakers Pass Bill Requiring School Districts Split Funds With Charters

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Charter school advocates say a bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly on Wednesday that requires school districts to split local tax dollars with charter schools is the first of its kind in the nation. 

Should the governor sign the bill into law, charter schools would get access to voter-approved tax increases, but would also have to be more transparent with their finances, according to the Denver Post:

"Charter school supporters have complained that only about a third of Colorado's 178 school districts share mill levy override revenue. In all, about $34 million in local tax increases are not being shared equitably with charter schools, according to a legislative report.

...The bill asks districts to develop plans to share mill levy funds, while allowing them to continue to withhold 5 percent of per pupil revenue. Charters would also be required to post some of their tax documents on their websites and limit their financial waivers." 

Charter schools often receive less funding across the federal, state, and local levels than their district school counterparts, according to a recent study by the University of Arkansas which looked at funding disparities in 14 cities, including Denver. More from Charters & Choice co-blogger, Sarah Tully:

"On average, charter schools collected about $5,721 less per student than traditional public schools, researchers at the University of Arkansas found. While public schools received about $19,922 on average, charters took in about $14,200 in a weighted average. The amount includes funds that districts get for mandated services, such as transportation.

...The biggest disparities came from local public revenue sources, such as property taxes and bond measures. Charters in eight of the cities examined by researchers collected no money from local revenue sources."

Researchers calculated that the funding gap in Denver, the one city in Colorado included in the study, to be 21 percent.

Increasing funding for charter schools in Colorado was a legislative priority in 2017 for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the nation's largest charter advocacy and lobbying group.

"HB 1375 is a victory for Colorado's charter school students and families," said Todd Ziebarth, NAPCS's senior vice president of state advocacy and support, in a statement. "It serves as an example of equitable local funding that should be replicated across the country. In too many states and districts, charter school students are not funded, or treated, equally to their district school peers."

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