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Student Success Act Soap Opera Gears Up for Shift to Wilder Ride in Senate

Colorado education’s political soap opera continues. But the latest episode is more about building suspense than revealing any dastardly motives or other clever plot twists. This time it’s the so-called Student Success Act (aka House Bill 1292), which cleared a key hurdle yesterday with an 11-1 vote in the House Education Committee.

The protests against the proposal have only grown louder and more concerted since it had its first hearing a few weeks ago. With near unanimity, Colorado school district superintendents have vocally clamored for more general formula dollars into their coffers and less prescriptive policies from the Gold Dome.

As Chalkbeat Colorado reports, the House is basically punting key decisions over to the Senate — where the legislation has to go eventually if it is going to prevail. Among them is an issue near and dear to my little heart:

But the most important amendment, which would have stripped a controversial new enrollment counting system from the bill, wasn’t offered because of lack of agreement on the issue.

The original version of the bill proposed a phased switch to the average daily membership system of counting enrollment, replacing the state’s current Oct. 1 single count. That’s a change sought by Republicans and education reform groups, but districts have pushed back on the idea because of concerns about cost and administrative burdens.

[Rep. Millie] Hamner prepared an amendment that would have replaced the ADM section of the bill with a two-count system, Oct. 1 and Feb. 1. She indicated she hadn’t reached agreement on the issue with Rep. Kevin Priola of Brighton, the primary Republican proponent of ADM.

Counting kids for funding based on a short window in the fall doesn’t provide a clear or fair picture, or make sure that all students are getting served as needed. Money should follow the student, and that includes counting them over the course of the year. But not just duplicating the bureaucratic, burdensome process a second time a year. We can do better than that. Something like ADM is an essential part of Colorado’s digital learning policy road map to the future.

The House Education Committee had been waiting for updated projections from staff on how many new tax dollars to expect. Those projections came out two days ago, leaving little room for optimism among lawmakers that there would be more dollars to spend.

So Colorado is left with hundreds of millions sitting in the State Education Fund (some like to call it a “savings account”). Representative Hamner seemed to suggest that the new numbers mean no more general paydown is coming to school districts than the $100 million already in HB 1292. While long-term realities tell us we can’t afford to build a lot more into the formula, has anyone considered a one-time paydown to school districts outside the formula?

After all, as this focal legislation soon makes a sharp turn into the other chamber at the State Capitol, who knows what to expect? The wild ride looks like it’s scarcely begun. All designed, one might think, to lure you into watching the next episode of the only soap opera my parents will allow me to watch.