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Publish Date: 4/9/2005

Panel to craft school-finance compromise


DENVER — Six lawmakers are expected to meet next week to try to work out a final compromise for distributing more than $4.5 billion in state and local funds to Colorado’s public schools.

However, the end result probably won’t change substantially what the state’s 178 school districts get in Public School Finance Act funding, according to Boulder Democratic Rep. Jack Pommer, who carried Senate Bill 200 in the House.

Under the Senate version approved March 29, the St. Vrain Valley School District would get a projected $128.68 million in state and local funds in 2005-06.

St. Vrain would get a bit more, $128.84 million, under the House version adopted Thursday.

At issue now, Pommer said, are Gov. Bill Owens’ objections to the House’s decision to earmark only $2.5 million to assist charter schools with land purchases, construction and building remodeling.

The House reduced the annual appropriation to the charter school capital construction account from $5 million to $2.5 million.

According to Pommer, the governor also questions a provision that would appropriate $5 million for grants and loans to help pay for emergency safety repairs and other improvements to public schools.

While there is a limited amount of money in those accounts, that money is available to all public schools, including charter schools, Pommer said.

He and Arvada Democrat Sue Windels, the Senate sponsor of SB200, met with Owens’ lobbyists Friday morning to discuss the governor’s concerns.

“They want more money for capital construction for charter schools and less money for capital construction for all other schools,” Pommer said after the meeting.

Windels could have asked the Senate to approve the House version of SB200, risking an Owens veto.

Instead, Windels got the Senate on Friday to reject the House amendments.

That set the stage for the appointment of a six-member committee, which will include Windels and Pommer, that will try to craft a compromise.

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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