Special education funding boost gets initial Colorado OK

Colorado took a big step toward fulfilling an old promise on Wednesday when lawmakers preliminarily approved $ 93 million in new special education funding.

Colorado has not raised compensation for special education students since the current system was established in 2006, and the state has never funded education for students with more significant restrictions in the amount required by law. Government spending covers only a fraction of the cost of educating students with disabilities, and districts spend more than $ 740 million a year from their general education budgets to make up the difference.

A bipartisan bill to increase government spending received unanimous approval Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 127 provides for an increase in government funding to $ 1,750, which is 40% for each student receiving special education services.

It will also increase funding next year for each student with more severe disabilities to a minimum of $ 5,088. That’s still a shy $ 6,000 per student promised in 2006, but the bill creates a mechanism to increase funding to account for future inflation.

Federal law requires schools to provide special education, but does not fully fund the program.

The fiscal analysis estimates the cost of both proposed changes in Colorado at $ 93 million, resulting in state allocations for special education next year to more than $ 303 million, or about 44%.

“I know it’s a big price, but it was our duty, and we haven’t done it in 16 years,” said Senator, sponsor of the bill, Barbara Kirkmaier, a Republican from Brighton. “I hope today we can begin the journey to fulfill our commitments to these children and their families.”

In previous years, citing fiscal constraints, lawmakers funded special education with all available money, usually increasing appropriations each year but not covering even half of their commitments until last year.

Senate Education Speaker Rachel Censinger, a Democrat from Arvada and a sponsor of the bill that has sought more funding for years, said she believes lawmakers have more freedom this year to address the issue. The state also has more money than in previous years.

The bill is part of a broader package of proposals for a major overhaul of K-12 funding, which was put forward by a special committee and one that has the broadest support. Last fall and once again at the committee’s hearings this week, special education principals said the lack of government support for students with disabilities is detrimental to all students.

Tamara Durbin, executive director of the Northeast Colorado Cooperative Education Services Council, which supports 12 school districts, described one small school that got rid of a kindergarten teacher and combined kindergarten and first grade to afford special education for full-time day. teacher.

“Every dollar we spend on special education benefits all education,” Censinger said.

In addition to approval by the full Senate and House of Representatives, the bill’s promises should be included in the proposed state budget. Among the sponsors is MP from the state of Julie McCluskey, Democrat Dylan, who heads a powerful Joint Budget Committee.

“We are not introducing a bill to reach 100% because we recognize that it is balancing with other priorities,” Censinger said.

The bill will also convene a group to study how Colorado funds special education services, including how state and county share costs, and recommend changes.

State Senator Paul Lundin, a Republican-monument, asked pressing questions throughout the legislative process about how best to direct money to the individual needs of students and not get involved in supporting district programs. School administrators and program principals say it’s not always easy to separate these things.

Leave a Comment