DENVER Cuts to public schools are now less than half of what Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed in February, thanks to a plan the House adopted Thursday.
A alliance between Democrats and a key Republican representative drafted a plan to funnel an additional $90 million to schools. The House approved it Thursday in a voice vote.
Earlier this month, senators managed to whittle Hickenloopers proposed $332 million cut down to $250 million.
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, worked with House Democrats to bring about Thursdays change.
Both sides have lamented that fact that a $250 million cut ... is particularly high and very damaging to our rural schools, said Massey, chairman of the House Education Committee.
His plan requires a bit of a leap of faith.
Supporters expect state tax revenue to improve by $67.5 million by June. If it does, all the money will go to schools in the middle of the next school year. An additional $22.5 million will go to schools right now, thanks to a transfer from the State Education Fund, which acts like a savings account for schools.
Hickenlooper has been reluctant to tap into the State Education Fund because it probably will be needed to offset further cuts next year.
We dont want to create a cliff. When we begin picking up the budget next November for 2012-13, we dont want to put ourselves into an impossible situation, Hickenlooper said.
Masseys plan leaves $100 million in the fund. Shortly before the House debated the bill, Hickenloopers staff signed off on the deal.
Not everyone was happy.
Let us be clear, colleagues, this is not a victory, said Rep. Cherylin Peniston, D-Westminster. It is simply cutting the devastating cuts to our classrooms into little pieces.
Numbers were not available Thursday to show exactly what the new plan will mean for individual school districts.
Both Democrats and Republicans were quick to claim credit for helping schools.
House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said Massey was in Democratic offices Wednesday night to negotiate the plan.
This is bipartisan compromise at its best, Pace said.
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said he and Massey were in close contact about the $90 million.
Republicans understand and recognize that we need to keep teachers in classrooms and make sure our Colorado schoolchildren are receiving the best education that they can get, McNulty said.
Only one Republican shouted out a no vote Thursday, but in the past, they have opposed spending money in the hopes that it would arrive later.
In a Wednesday hearing on school finance, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said the Legislature should not spend money based on what we were hoping to get from grandpa in a Christmas card.
McNulty approved the use of the $90 million because schools would not actually get the money until sometime next year, after the state has a better idea of how much tax revenue it will collect.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.