The Public School Finance Bill of 2022
The legislature is obligated to fund public schools and must pass a bill to do so every year. This year the Public School Finance bill (HB22-1390) was introduced on April 19th and promptly assigned to be heard in the House Education committee on April 21st where the original amendment (L004) was added to the bill. CHEC’s Homeschool Day at the Capitol was held the following day. CHEC did not find out about the homeschool amendment until Monday, April 25th.
Immediately, Mike Donnelly of HSLDA began conversations with the lobbyists who drafted the original amendment and several representatives in the House. The bill was quickly brought to the House floor for debate and Representatives Geitner and Luck were able to move new language (L015) to the school finance section of the law instead of the homeschool law. Because it happened so quickly, none of the people involved were satisfied with the language.
Work then began to bring those involved together to find a way forward. CHEC and HSLDA attempted to piece together what drove the original amendment, but the full picture remains opaque. Within a week of being introduced, the bill passed out of the House and was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education committee. After hearing our concerns, Senator Lundeen presented an amendment (L022) to strike the amendment altogether. But, the work was not done. Another amendment (L034) was adopted during the Senate floor work which did not point directly to homeschoolers and remains on the final version of the bill that will become law.
What was the original amendment (L004) trying to accomplish?
From what we were able to ascertain, some of the programs offered to homeschoolers through the public school system were using a separate school code (a specific code unique to the program) to receive funding from the state. In response to the federal government changing how they fund public schools, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) adopted new policies explaining to these homeschool programs they were no longer eligible for a separate school code. Several school districts wanted CDE to go back to the way they were doing things. CDE claims the only way to do that is by changing state law. The original amendment was the school districts attempt to do that.
Why were you concerned with the language in the original amendment (L004)?
The original amendment placed both a new term “public program” and additional funding language into the homeschool law. “Public program” was not defined anywhere and had the potential to muddy the waters of our homeschool law. Placing funding mechanisms in the homeschool law could lead to adding increased regulations necessary to oversee those taxpayer dollars which has a high probability of impacting all homeschoolers not just those using public school programs. In addition, anytime the homeschool law is placed in a bill we are concerned legislators will begin scrutinizing all aspects of homeschooling in Colorado.
What was wrong with the amendment (L015) brought by Representatives Geitner/Luck?
Though this amendment accomplished moving the funding mechanism from the homeschool law to the school finance law, the clear use of the term “homeschool” or “nonpublic home-based educational program” throughout the amendment was concerning to us. We had suggested using language that pointed to “students who are not full-time participants in a public school”. Again, we are concerned that any law that ties together homeschooling and government funding could lead to further regulations for all homeschoolers.
What was the end result accomplished by the final amendment (L034)?
The end result was that the programs seeking a separate school code were able to get what they wanted, and we were able to remove the troubling language pointing to homeschoolers. We still are not completely sure what ramifications this new law will have on homeschooling in Colorado in the future, but given the choices placed before us, we believe God enabled us to navigate the choppy waters successfully. We will need to stay vigilant and watch what CDE does with this new law when it comes time for them to write rules around implementing the new language.
We would like to thank all the people who helped keep homeschooling out of school funding! Especially, Representatives Geitner and Luck, and Senator Lundeen.