Some State Board of Education members Thursday expressed disappointment with the limited recommendations that seem likely to emerge from the Interim Committee on School Finance.

The board was briefed on that panel’s most recent meeting by Anne Barkis, board and Department of Education lobbyist. (See this EdNews story about that meeting.)

“It sounds like they didn’t touch the school finance act … that list [of possible bills] sounds like really, really tinkering around the edges,” said board member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District.

Although interim committee members are discussing bills that would affect funding for small school districts and at-risk students, among other things, no proposals address any of the key formulas or structures of state school funding formulas.

“I really was disappointed. I had much higher hopes for the committee,” said board member Randy DeHoff, R-6th District. He noted that the state’s severe budget crunch has been cited as a reason for not suggesting major steps in school finance. “I can’t think of a better reason [than a crisis] for radical restructuring of the school finance act,” DeHoff added.

Barkis cautioned that the interim committee won’t necessarily have the last word on school finance next year. “This is very early in the process, and certainly not all of the folks [interested in the issue] were at the table. … I don’t think this is the be all and end all of what we’re going to see on school finance during the legislative session.”

Berman suggested that Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, be invited to the board’s November meeting to explain their thinking. Middleton and Romer are chair and vice-chair respectively of the interim committee.

“I think it would be good to have a face to face,” agreed DeHoff.

Bob Schaffer, R-4th Districit, chair of the State Board of Education
Bob Schaffer, R-4th Districit, chair of the State Board of Education

SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said, “I’m inclined to broaden the invitation” to include education committee chairs and legislative leaders. “If we invite 10 we’ll get two to show up,” he joked.

(For more information about the board’s legislative priorities for 2010, see this draft list. The board will formally adopt its priorities in November.)

The board Thursday also heard public testimony about proposed revisions in the regulations that cover the touchy issue of restraining schoolchildren.

Ed Steinberg, CDE special education director, said the proposed rules are a “tightening” and a “reorganization.” A task force has been working on the proposed rules since 2007.

Several witnesses (including task force members) supported the rules while others raised questions, particularly about the lack of enforcement mechanism on school districts.

Steinberg said that since the underlying law doesn’t include enforcement, the rules can’t require it.

DeHoff noted that while there have been abuses of restraint in schools, it’s “fairly impossible” to write rules that will prevent all abuse.

The board will vote on the rules in November.

Before adjourning until next month, the board honored the eight Colorado students who had perfect scores on last spring’s ACT test, which all state 11th graders have to take. The students are Daniel Bragg (Fairview High School, Boulder Valley Schools); Catherine Chen (also Fairview); Joshua Burns (Liberty High School, Academy School District 20); Hannah McGehee (George Washington High School, Denver Public Schools); Thomas Rueter (Thornton High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools); Richard Shulte (Fort Collins High School, Poudre School District R-1); Amani Moin (Loveland High School, Thompson School District R-2 J), and Margaret Koehler (Lewis-Palmer High School, Lewis-Palmer School District 38).