Legislative battles over contentious issues are by their nature long and
uncertain in their outcome, often to the very last minute. This year’s Battle for the Negative Factor
was as contentious as any fight we have had at the legislature —and not one that is likely to end anytime soon.
the past five years, a half dozen new and major education reform bills
were implemented in Colorado.Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature has
taken more than $3 billion out of school finance through the negative
factor, which is now projected to continue at a rate of nearly $1
billion a year for the foreseeable future. Everyone at the state capitol
touts the importance of a strong public education system, but no one
has called for meaningful increases to current school funding levels.
ongoing education funding crisis made it clearly evident what CASB
should focus its efforts on this year: uniting school board voices in
the battle to erase the negative factor.
| This year’s Battle for the Negative Factor was as contentious as any fight we have had at the legislature — and not one that is likely to end anytime soon.
campaign launched in December, with CASB’s Delegate Assembly and Board
of Directors adopting resolutions making restoration of the negative
factor our highest priority.
We knew we had our work cut out
for us. Not only did the legislative session start with no money
allotted for the negative factor buy down, we also learned many
legislators didn’t know what the negative factor was. Several
legislators told us our resolution fell on deaf ears.
long, however, before the negative factor became the hottest issue
under the gold dome and in the news. Armed with a collection of CASB
resources —Individualized Lobbying Plans, talking points, one-pagers and
sample resolutions— school board members began educating legislators
about how deeply the cuts in school finance have affected their
students, families and schools, and the importance of increased funding
They shared stories about the sacrifices their
districts have made: how many programs have been cut, how many years
have passed without raises and the irreplaceable teachers lost. Our
members made calls and sent letters and emails to their communities,
legislators and local newspapers. More than 50 school districts adopted
resolutions calling upon the legislature to eliminate the negative
factor and restore education funds.
School board members also showed up in droves for our Days at the Capitol events,
and they were well prepared, fired up and ready to lobby. Last year,
many members didn’t have relationships with their legislators and were
unfamiliar with the goings-on at the capitol, so they cautiously dipped a
toe into the legislative pool. This year, however, our members dove
head first into the deep end— exploring on their own, knocking on
legislators’ doors and signing up to testify. The intensified school
board presence at the capitol did not go unnoticed. One legislator
quipped in a hearing that every day seemed to be CASB’s Day at the
And, just in case legislators didn’t get the message
through in-person lobbying, emails and phone calls, CASB demonstrated
its conviction through a ditty. The now viral and surprisingly catchy
negative factor song made its debut at our Winter Legislative Conference
Take that Negative Factor, make it go away! Come on put that billion
back, do it with no strings attached. Take that Negative Factor make it
When the gavel banged down ending this session, the negative factor payback had gone from zero to $110 million.
This is well short of our goal even for the first year, but it is real
progress. And, much of this success must be credited to our members.
Looking ahead, we are committed to more funding, fewer mandates and the
hard work it will take to accomplish those goals.