Apr 24, 2023 - Politics

Colorado vows to end long-standing debt to schools

Illustration of a dollar made out of chalk on a chalkboard being erased

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Colorado leaders are promising to stop underfunding local schools for the first time in 15 years.

Driving the news: The annual education spending bill would require the state to meet its constitutional requirement to fully fund K-12 schools in the 2024-25 school year, John reports in collaboration with our partners at Chalkbeat.

Why it matters: State lawmakers have shortchanged education ever since the Great Recession forced budget-pinching, often by hundreds of millions a year through what is often referred to as "the negative factor" or "budget stabilization factor."

Be smart: Per a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2000, school spending must increase each year by the rate of inflation plus population growth.

  • This year, the $9 billion K-12 budget is $141 million short of fully funding schools.
  • To make schools whole, it could require as much as $415 million in new dollars next fiscal year.

Yes, but: Even if lawmakers meet their pledge next year, it won't backfill the more than $10 billion school districts have lost since 2009.

The big picture: For years, Colorado policymakers have toyed with changes to how schools are funded to make them more equitable. The state's teachers' union considers the elimination of the negative factor a first step toward a much-needed broader overhaul.

What they're saying: “Colorado’s future depends on enacting a long-term, systemic change to provide additional revenue sources for our public school system," Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association, said in a statement.

  • "Until such change is enacted, our schools, our educators, our students, and all Coloradans will continue to be short-changed."

Go deeper with our partners at Chalkbeat


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