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  • Writer's pictureDustin Sparks

Colorado Draft School Finance Rules Will Hinder Innovation and Jeopardize Access




During the upcoming December meeting of the Colorado State Board of Education, members will consider proposed revisions to the rules governing the implementation of the Public School Finance Act of 1994 (Proposed Rules). While these changes are intended to encompass the innovative practices that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and were deliberated by the Blended Learning Initiative (BLI) over a two-year period, their negative impact on thousands of Colorado students, particularly those participating in part-time online homeschool programs and Early College programs, raises concerns. The proposed rules will be a hindrance to Colorado moving education forward and will prevent Colorado’s public school system from implementing innovations that help better meet the needs of Colorado students.


Impact on Part-Time Home School Programs:

A primary concern centers on how the Proposed Rules could impact part-time programs, particularly those tailored for homeschooled students. Currently, Colorado public schools offer online programs that serve a substantial number of homeschooled students. These students are attracted to the variety of educational offerings that complement the homeschooling provided by their parents. However, the Proposed Rules would effectively terminate funding for these online programs for students below the sixth grade. In a presentation held on November 27, 2023, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) portrayed the changes in Section 2.05 as creating new opportunities for homeschooled students. Contrary to this representation, these programs are already funded, and the proposed changes would lead to the discontinuation of funding for many Colorado students. Section 2.05 will limit alternative teacher-pupil instruction, which includes online homeschool programs, to grades six through twelve, thus ceasing funding for existing programs that currently grant thousands of homeschooled students access to diverse public school resources that enrich their educational experiences.


Hindrance to College Course Transition:

Another concern pertains to students concurrently taking college courses while in secondary school. Schools designated as Early Colleges by the State Board offer only a curriculum designed to ensure that students graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate's degree or postsecondary credential. Early Colleges have helped Colorado families save millions in college tuition and help introduce students to college courses while they have the benefit of the support their public schools provide to help them be successful. Students in these public schools can begin taking college courses as early as middle school. However, the Proposed Rules will upend the past 16 years of precedent and require students to enroll in a full college course load to receive full-time funding.


This change will hinder the success of students who gradually transition to college courses while benefiting from additional support offered by their schools. For many of Colorado's most at-risk students, the Proposed Rules will eliminate the option for them to enroll in fewer than what is deemed a full college course load while obtaining the necessary support from their public school. This will reduce many at-risk students' access to higher education courses and will dramatically reduce their success in higher education courses based on this all-or-nothing approach.


Conclusion:

While these are just a few of the concerns raised by the Proposed Rules, they underscore the need for a careful examination of their impact on students. Prioritizing students' well-being and basing rule changes on solid research, which has not been presented by CDE, is essential. We strongly encourage all stakeholders to submit their concerns to the State Board of Education at state.board@cde.state.co.us and actively participate in the dialogue to maintain and create better educational opportunities for Colorado students.


For any questions or further information, please feel free to contact Dustin Sparks at dustinsparks@charterschoollawgroup.com.



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