Immediate Feedback Loop: Fourth Year of School Cuts Announced on Election Day

Call it coincidental or ironic: this year, the governor was statutorily required to propose his budget on election day.

Proposition 103 provided Colorado with its only opportunity to avoid a fourth year of cuts to K-12 and continued cuts to higher education. The polls hadn’t even closed by the time Governor Hickenlooper’s budget unveiled the concrete implications of not passing Proposition 103.

Ed News reports:

The plan proposes an $89 million reduction in total program funding, the combination of state and local revenue that pays for basic instructional operations. That’s about $160 a student. Current total program funding is about $5.2 billion, down some $228.9 million, about 4.2 percent, from 2010-11. Current average per pupil funding is a little under $6,500.

Direct state support of state colleges and universities would drop 9.7 percent, taking it to $563 million from the current $619 million, which includes $519 million for institutions and $100 million from financial aid. Next year institutional support and financial aid each would take $30 million cuts.

To put the governor’s proposed cuts in perspective:

  • The $160 per pupil cut reflects a $350 million cut below what the current School Finance Act requires (i.e., keeping up with enrollment and inflation).
  • It reflects a level of school funding that is well over $1,000 per student and $1 billion total below what Amendment 23 requires.
  • It reduces average per pupil funding below FY06-07 levels.  (Subtract $160 from the 2011-12 bar in this graph provided by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute):

    Colorado Public Radio reporter Ben Markus highlighted the impact that Prop 103 could have had:

    Jane Urschel [with the Colorado Association of School Boards]: “If 103 does pass, then the whole ball game changes.  There should not have to be cuts to K-12 or possibly not even to higher ed, because the proposal is to give some distribution of those dollars to higher education.”

    Reporter: Even so, she says since 2008 nearly a billion dollars have already been chopped out of the state’s education budget. Janet Wyatt, chief legal officer for the Brighton School District, sees the damage those cuts have done on the ground.

    Janet Wyatt, Brighton School District: The state does what they feel that they need to do. The impact on public education is huge, and it has ramifications that will last lifetimes.

    The governor’s budget proposal is, of course, far from the last shoe to drop in school funding; now the budget is in the legislature’s hands.  The magnitude of cuts could change if legislators disagree with some of the governor’s decisions, such as suspending the Senior Homestead exemption (it would cost up to $100 million to provide the exemption) and not appropriating $22 million to develop the state assessments that match the new standards implemented this year.

    So begins the story of Colorado post-103.


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