Colorado Succeeds has been focused on ensuring funding equity for all public school students, including charter students. While they accomplished some of their charter school goals last session, a top priority this year was making sure local mill levy funds were equitably shared with public charter schools, where in Colorado, students were only receiving 80 cents on the dollar as opposed to traditional public schools. They had to influence legislators on both sides of the aisle regarding the merits of this legislative proposal. A particular focus was needed for certain Democrats in Colorado. Working with other key partners like the Colorado League of Charter Schools, Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado, and the Colorado Charter School Institute, we worked to mobilize business leaders to meet with leaders in the House and Senate to ensure bill passage, and also led advocacy campaign strategies to target legislators on social media and targeted ad buys in certain districts trying to increase grassroots support for the legislation.
Another successful tactic used by Succeeds was developing myth vs. fact whiteboard videos explaining to the public what a charter school is and is not. These videos were promoted throughout Colorado Succeeds’ social media channels and targeted to legislators' social media accounts. They conducted statewide polling on the issue, as well. Another tactic utilized by our coalition was being willing to sit down at the negotiation table with lead Democrats and Republicans to find another path forward when they realized the original legislation would not gain traction.
Complications included: needing to pivot to multiple different legislative vehicles to see passage and navigating challenging personal dynamics between legislators. In the end, the new legislation negotiated reached the original goal of local funding equity and passed overwhelmingly by a large majority in both chambers. Colorado Succeeds is very pleased by this historic victory. Colorado is now the first state in the nation to ensure public charter school students receive equitable access to all existing and future locally-raised tax revenue
Policy / Coalition Partners
DFER Colorado, Ready Colorado, Colorado League of Charter Schools, Charter School Institute of Colorado (CSI), Stand for Children Colorado, Colorado Children's Campaign
Key Lessons Learned
Stay flexible with the legislative vehicle and the legislative text, and be open to negotiating the policy and the process. Keep all options open and always keep it bipartisan.
Always share credit with your larger coalition and in general, work in coalitions when you can.
Ensure all bill sponsors feel some credit and an important role in the development of the legislation.
Utilize digital campaign strategies to target grassroots activation.
Don't forget to activate the grass-tops representatives like the business community; Colorado Succeeds organized a call-in strategy with the Governor where business leaders targeted the Governor to support the legislation. The grass-tops strategy with our larger coalition was directed to the Speaker of the House through texts, meetings, and emails.
Statewide polling is a strong tactic that can be used publicly and privately (shared with targeted staff or legislators who need influencing).
Never underestimate the power of a text. It’s a very simple action for members to take and the legislators see it immediately.
Bill / Policy ReferenceHB 17-1375
ResourcesHistoric Legislation to Equitably Fund Public Charter Schools Passes Colorado General Assembly
Busting the Myths Surrounding Colorado’s Charter Schools
Report: Scaling Colorado's Most Successful Schools
ContactKelly Caufield, Vice President of Government Affairs
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