By Carol Meredith and Luke Wheeland
What a wonderful 2019 Colorado legislative session for Special Education funding as both SB19-246 (Public School Finance) and SB19-066 (High-cost Special Education Trust Fund Grants) passed the State Legislature. These bills will have an impact on the Colorado community and demonstrate the hard work being done by your representatives at the Capitol.
SB19-246, Public School Finance passed with great effort from Senator Nancy Todd (D-Aurora), Senator Paul Lundeen (R- El Paso), Representative Barbara McLachlan (D ) and Representative James Wilson (R) that increase statewide funding for public school students to $182.76 (base per pupil funding for the 2019-2020 budget year). While this alone would be great for Colorado students, the Public School Finance Bill also increased the amount of special education funding by $22 million! This measure was a result of Amendment 23 introduced by Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada). This is a permanent increase (allowed to grow with inflation) and will help schools provide supports to students with the most significant needs. This also provides rural school districts relief where historically special education funding has been difficult. If $22 million wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, SB19-246 also includes $5 million for behavioral health needs in schools.
Additionally, High-cost Special Education Trust Fund Grants passed with support by Senator Nancy Todd (D-Aurora) and Representative Bri Buentello (D). This bill creates the high-cost special education trust fund that can be used for high-cost special education trust fund grants in public school special education programs. This bill allows for public schools that make/have made significant expenditures in the special education services for a child with a disability extra funding in higher need circumstances. The funds for this bill, while only $2.5 million this year come from marijuana taxes. This bill is a rallying point, showing how our State legislators are recognizing the need to provide school districts the funding special education services need.
These historic measures are important to not only the education and inclusion of students with significant needs, but all Colorado students, because financing improvements in special education improve education for all.