BOULDER — A Littleton Republican served as the lone voice Monday in support of a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would require all school districts to dedicate 65 percent of their budgets to “classroom instruction.”
State Rep. Joe Stengel told about two dozen people gathered for the panel discussion at the CU-Boulder campus that setting minimum budget allocations for classrooms can only improve education for kids.
“It is counterintuitive to say if we spend more money on our kids, we won’t get a better-educated student,” Stengel said.
However, that is exactly the premise that panelists representing the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Colorado Education Association supported.
Frank Waterous of the Bell Policy Center said studies have failed to demonstrate that budget percentages spent on classroom instruction equate to better education, and he argued that forcing school districts to allocate funds according to a state-mandated formula instead of individual district needs could be harmful. He cited a recent Standard and Poor’s study as evidence.
The study also analyzed six Colorado school districts that spent at least 65 percent of their budgets on instruction in 2002-03 and found that half showed above-state-average student proficiency levels in 2003-04 and half had below-state-average levels.
Washington and Arizona have rejected similar measures.
“This is the only state that is trying to put it in our Constitution,” said Tony Salazar of the Colorado Education Association, which also opposes the proposed budgetary mandate.
The amendment is similar to Referendum J, which asks voters to require the 65 percent budgetary expenditure on classroom instruction but casts a wider definition of classroom instruction and doesn’t require a constitutional mandate.