"Student Success Act" or "Dingelhoffer", Let's Make Bolder School Finance Proposal

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asked. She had a point. If I decided to call a rose a dingelhoffer, it wouldn’t affect the beauty or scent of the flower in any way. Nor should we be distracted by the name given to Colorado’s finally released HB 1292, known as the Student Success Act. I’m talking about the grand proposal to dole out some of the extra dollars built up in the State Education Fund.

I don’t want to get hung up on the names. (Some called the HB 1262 teacher incentive program — very recently killed by a party-line committee vote — the “Great Act.” I liked the idea for what it would have done, not for what it was called.) That’s why you have little old me around, to help dig beneath the surface.

Chalkbeat Colorado broke the news about HB 1292 Tuesday night. It’s clearly a plan that has been evolving since the idea was floated a couple months ago. All the shifting pieces had me tied up in knots a couple weeks ago. Not everything is clear yet, but the new and finally introduced version of the bill seems okay.

Being the result of a political negotiation process, no one is entirely happy. Still, I’m pleased to see Average Daily Membership and financial transparency ($15 million combined), as well as the extra funds for charter school facilities ($13 million), in the legislation. I’m not entirely convinced the READ Act will work as advertised, but if you’re going to make a concentrated effort to improve early literacy we can hope the extra $20 million will be used effectively.

What I’m still trying to wrap my little brain around is the shifting of funds from reform implementation (once rumored at $100 million, now just $40 million) to the general school district paydown (not originally part of the deal, it ends up being $100 million). Local agencies (some justifiably) complain about unfunded mandates, but how much do they really need for implementation in the end if they’d rather just see dollars arrive in the general fund? We’ll keep watching that.

Some have begun to call HB 1292 the “son of SB 213.” But as legislation goes, it’s not that much smaller. The father (mother?) bill was 141 pages long; the son still a hefty 113 pages. Maybe one of my Education Policy Center friends can pore through it soon.

The good news is the offspring doesn’t depend on raising taxes from hardworking families in a slow-growth economy, but can be paid for out of existing state dollars. My big issue: If we’re going to call it the Student Success Act, let’s push for some bold school funding changes that will contribute to individual student success. As has been suggested, allowing education dollars to be more portable and prorated certainly would help.

Then you could call the new law whatever you want: We Love the Denver Broncos, the Ed Is Watching Law (my personal favorite!), Cousin George, or even dingelhoffer. For the sake of Colorado students, it would smell just as sweet.