In 2016, Colorado passed a large portion of a bill to achieve equity for charter schools in the state, including multiple compliance and regulatory changes. DFER - Colorado, as a lead member of the Communities of Practice coalition through the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, continued this work into 2017 and successfully passed Mill Levy Equity in 2017.
The bill, which gives charter schools access to local mill levies, was originally part of legislation SB61, but this bill stalled, as it only addressed charter schools. Union groups drew a line in the sand and did negative mailers against the speaker of the house and the joint budget committee in attempts to apply pressure to Democrats to kill the measure. On Monday before the session ended, DFER Colorado worked to place the legislation into a separate compromise bill focused on students in order to pass. The compromise expanded equity for both charter school students and innovation school students. Eventually, both chambers passed HB1375 and the bill became law. Colorado is the first state in the nation to pass this policy.
Policy / Coalition Partners
Colorado League of Charter Schools, Colorado Succeeds, READY Colorado, Charter School Institute
Key Lessons Learned
Think broadly about who will be impacted by the legislation from the start. Colorado has started developing innovation school zones. The bill creates resource equity for both charter schools and innovation zones. Now, education reformers won’t have to come back to the table and ask for innovation zones to be included next session.
The messenger is very important. After the bill passed, the Americans for Prosperity group ran thank you ads for two Democrats who worked on the bill. Those legislators might be in a bad place with ads aligning them to Koch brothers for their education reform work.
Every single member of the coalition contributed to its success. By focusing on kids, DFER CO was able to bring Democrats on board; however, the union's willingness to do a negative mailer on Democratic leadership was surprising and the connection of this policy to President Trump also played a role.
Bill / Policy ReferenceEquity for Charter Students
ResourcesMill Levy Override Sharing by District (2015-16)
Mill Levy Override - Per Pupil Loss - Gain
ContactJen Walmer, State Director
Democrats for Education Reform Colorado
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