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News Release - State Board approves $401 million for BEST program

June 13, 2019

State Board approves $401 million for BEST program

SALIDA, Colo. – The Colorado State Board of Education approved 43 school construction projects totaling more than $401 million from the Capital Construction Assistance Fund for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program at its monthly two-day meeting held Wednesday and Thursday in Salida.

The projects at school districts, BOCES and charter schools from throughout Colorado range from roof and boiler replacements to constructing entire school buildings.

Approximately $129 million of the 2019 awards will be funded through cash grants provided by income earned from the Colorado State Land Board, marijuana excise taxes, spillover from the Colorado Lottery and interest on the assistance fund. Applicants will contribute $110 million in matching funds.

Another $100 million is through lease-purchase grants from the state. Financing will be repaid with future assistance fund revenues. Applicants will contribute $62 million in matching money for those projects.

All school districts, BOCES, the Charter School Institute, charter schools and Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind may apply for the competitive grants.

The grants are intended to improve health, safety, security and technology in public schools. Schools apply for the grants and the Capital Construction Assistance Board reviews the applications, prioritizing them and submitting their recommendations to the state board for approval.

Since 2008, BEST has funded 354 grants in 141 school districts for a total of $2.1 billion in projects.

Forty-three projects and three backup projects were selected for the 2019-20 cycle out of 58 grant applications that had requested a total of $437 million in state grant funds with $383 million in matching funds.

The approved projects inlcude:

  • $49 million for a new preschool through 12th grade school in Sierra Grande R-30.
  • $44.2 million for a remodel and addition for East Middle School in Aurora Public Schools.
  • $41.5 million for a new preschool through 12th grade school in La Veta RE-2.

See the full list here.

As required by statute, the state’s Capital Development Committee reviews and approves all projects recommended by the state board that are selected for lease-purchase financing. The committee is scheduled to vote on the board’s recommendations on Friday.

Board approves Pueblo School District’s plan for Minnequa Elementary School

On Wednesday, the state board approved Pueblo School District’s proposal to hire Relay Graduate School of Education as a partial manager for Minnequa Elementary School, which has received one of the two lowest ratings on the state’s school Performance Framework for six consecutive years. The district’s request included continuation of Minnequa’s current innovation plan. Relay will have final decision-making authority over curriculum, professional development and coaching of school and district leaders.  The board has not yet approved the final written order on Minnequa.

The School Performance Framework measures attainment on key performance indicators identified in state law: academic achievement and academic longitudinal growth for all schools and postsecondary and workforce readiness for secondary schools. Colorado’s 2009 Accountability Act requires the board mandate specific actions to boost student academic outcomes at schools with more than five consecutive years of poor performance in the state’s accountability system. 

Board considers changes to accountability frameworks

The board held a hearing and approved the Rules for the Colorado Growth Model. The board also held an initial hearing on the Rules for the Administration of Statewide Accountability Measures and is expected to hold a second hearing for the accountability rules in August. 

At the request of board members, CDE shared accountability framework data for several possible scenarios -- incorporating the new on-track growth measure, shifting the Performance rating cut-score, and potentially adding a Distinction rating for schools. 

The new on-track growth measure is required by statute and would measure whether schools are helping students who are lower performing catch up to grade level expectations quickly enough, as well as students who are already meeting grade level expectations maintaining grade level performance. The board indicated an interest in setting the on-track growth measure at two years for lower-performing students to increase one performance level on state tests.

The board discussed changes to the cut score for the Performance category that would increase expectations for Performance ratings. State board members indicated a desire to further evaluate the number of schools in the Performance category. Scenarios were also presented that incorporated a new category of “Distinction” as a way to identify the highest performing schools. 

Additional discussion about the potential changes to the accountability frameworks is anticipated in August and during the fall. The earliest the changes would be implemented would be in 2020.

Board approves grants for counselors, drop-out prevention, health professionals and early literacy

In other actions:

  • The board denied Poudre School District’s request to dismiss an appeal of the district’s decision to refuse a 30-year contract term for Liberty Common School. The board also denied the appeal, finding that consistency in applying a standard five-year contract term is not contrary to the best interest of the community. However, the board noted that the school district should be mindful of charter schools’ need to demonstrate long-term stability when seeking financing for capital improvements.
  • The board did not approve HOPE Online’s appeal of Aurora Public Schools decision to not renew the agreement allowing Hope to operating learning centers within the district. As a result of the state board’s decision, the district’s decision to close Hope Online’s learning centers in Aurora will stand.
  • The board approved the Colorado Department of Education’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 and requested time at a future board meeting to finalize the budget request.