Eagle County Schools get state funding boost amid flurry of late legislation | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools get state funding boost amid flurry of late legislation

EAGLE — Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush wears a walking cast on her left foot, which she insists is not from kicking butt and taking names in the state legislature's waning days.

Mitsch Bush represents Eagle and Routt counties in Colorado's House of Representatives and was in town for a legislative session wrapup Thursday.

The star in this year's legislative crown is increased state education funding that will mean almost $1.9 million more for local schools next year.

State lawmakers closed this year's legislative session by boosting per-pupil funding by $242 for the 2017-18 school year.

In Eagle County, that means $1.893 million more for next year, increasing funding to $7,962.42 per pupil, up from $7,703.90 this year, according to the district's financials.

The differences are not exact because of some of the factors in Colorado's school finance laws, explained Sandy Mutchler, Eagle County Schools' chief operating officer.

sharing with charter SchoolS

Less clear is what House Bill 1375 means. The late-minute package orders school districts to create a plan to equitably share voter-approved tax increases with charter schools. Those plans are not due for three years, before the 2019-20 school year.

Because it's not retroactive, it will not change the way Eagle County Schools spends the money from two voter-approved tax increases: one to increase annual funding by $8 million (3A), and another allowing the school district to borrow $144 million for construction projects (3B), with a total payoff of $233 million after accrued interest.

Only about a third of Colorado's 178 school districts share their voter-approved tax increases with charter schools.

Eagle County is home to two charter schools. Eagle Valley Charter Academy falls under the school district's umbrella and gets a share of that 3A and 3B money. Stone Creek Charter School is independent and does not.

Stone Creek's kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment is 277 and will jump to 320 next year, said Jason Mills, Stone Creek principal.

Win some, lose some

Mitsch Bush ran a bill that would have created a fund to subsidize high health insurance costs in rural areas. After passing out of the House with bipartisan support, it died in the state Senate.

She co-sponsored a bill that would have asked voters statewide to approve a sales tax to fund transportation projects. It passed the House but died on a party-line vote in the Senate finance committee.

Funding for rural broadband

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, worked $9.45 million into the state budget for Colorado's Rural Broadband Fund. That bit of legislative maneuvering followed the death of two of Donovan's rural broadband bills.

"It cannot be understated how important it is that the General Assembly is finally starting to fulfill its promise to wire Colorado from corner to corner," Donovan said.

Telehealth bill

Donovan's telehealth bill requires insurance companies to cover telehealth services accessed through mobile devices.

Technology allows people to meet with health care providers using the video function on their smartphone. However, some insurance companies aren't covering telehealth services accessed through smartphones. This bill requires insurance companies to cover those services, and it passed mid-session.

Domestic violence survivors

Survivors of domestic violence can now choose if they want the medical professional they are treated by to report their injuries to law enforcement. Right now, state law demands that medical professionals report domestic violence injuries, even if the patient asks them not to.

This would allow the patient to create a safety plan to get away from their abuser. Under this bill, the abuse will still be documented but provides survivors time to create their plan for safety, whether it is finding housing or protecting children, while still seeking medical care for their injuries.

"This is about saving lives," Donovan said. "This way, the decision is in their hands, and they still have access to help. Based on the discussions with survivors and advocates we have had, the current policy on the books actually puts survivors of domestic violence in danger."

Follow the money

Education costs

• $27,105,600,000: Colorado’s total state budget

• $5,599,400,000: What we spend on K-12 education

• $10,575,200,000: The state’s general fund

• $4,102,100,000: General fund money spent on K-12 education

Medicaid costs

The second largest chunk of state money is spent on Medicaid.

• $9,842,900,000. Medicaid spending from all sources.

• $2,818,200,000: Medicaid spending from Colorado’s general fund.

Source: Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting

Also among late legislation

• The hospital provider fee legislative package reversed a planned $528 million cut to hospitals.

• A compromise package will make it harder to sue builders for alleged construction defects.