Last week, as the state legislature ended the legislative session, House Bill 1422, known as the School Finance Act, finally passed both legislative chambers. However, while the bill ultimately passed with bipartisan support, I stood firm against cuts to some of Colorado’s smaller districts, making several attempts extend state funds to these schools.
The final version of House Bill 1422 insulates most districts from further budget cuts, but 10 of Colorado’s smaller districts, Clear Creek, Genoa Hugo, Wiggins, Cripple Creek, Keenesburg, Platte Valley, Fort Lupton, Briggsdale, Prairie, and Pawnee, will be forced to absorb nearly $7 million in cuts in the upcoming fiscal year. I and other legislators offered amendments to extend state grants to these districts to help alleviate that fiscal burden, but these amendments failed to gain the necessary support in the House and were left off the final bill.
The legislature had already fully backfilled other smaller school districts just a year earlier. We were just asking for a 50% backfill with these districts. These areas were already experiencing hardships with the drop in oil, gas, and mining production. The legislature got it wrong not helping these districts in their time of need. There was money to accomplish a 50% grant backfill. That would mean that these districts would still have to come up with the other 50%.
The state has the money to help these districts, and it’s very frustrating to know that districts like Wiggins, which is already struggling, will have to figure out what critical asset will be eliminated because the state legislature failed to prioritize their funding.
As we hear more and more from metro legislators that this is what we deserve for living in rural areas. I have one thing to say to them, “if you want us to go away you better move closer to your food”! Rural areas play a big part in your energy and food production. The sooner you realize that the faster you will understand why these schools are important.