Governor’s Budget Release: Good News or Bad for Schools?

The governor’s proposed budget is not good news for schools. Even though recent headlines indicate funding increases, those increases do not keep pace with inflation. This funding deficit results in a lack of buying power at our schools.

The immense and growing funding deficit for schools is the real story. It is irresponsible to ignore the fact that since 2010, K-12 education has not kept pace with inflation and this loss in buying power for schools has had real consequences.

This funding deficit between actual funding and what schools should have received in order to keep up with the anemic inflation rate is reflected in red below:

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There are consequences to not funding our schools adequately. One immediate example is the sheer number of local elections underway — elections focused on mitigating this loss in buying power for school districts. This document provides each school district’s loss of buying power for each year since 2009-10. The Great Ed stats page provides important examples that speak to other consequences, such as 49% of Colorado schools having 4-day school weeks, Colorado ranking last in providing a competitive wage to teachers, and the list goes on.

At Great Ed, we know that education is the bedrock of our strength as a state, as it builds communities in which we all can thrive. This is why we signed a letter to our state leaders, urging them to exert bold, visionary leadership in addressing Colorado’s funding crisis.

Unfortunately, the recent governor’s budget release does not meet Guiding principle #1 in the open letter to state leaders —  Place Colorado on a three-year path to restoring total funding, which will require a 2017-18 budget that does not allow average per pupil funding to fall farther behind inflation. The proposed increase falls $1,016 per student short of keeping up with the state’s student population growth and inflation rate, as outlined in the state’s constitution. While a minimal increase in funding is provided, it still grows the $831 million funding deficit to $876 million in the 2017-18 school year.

Bottom line, if funding per student were restored to pre-recessionary levels, schools would be receiving $1,016 more per student. For a school with 500 students that equates to $508,000 and for a school with 1,000 students that equates to over a million dollars. (Do the math: multiply the number of students in your school times $1,016 to calculate your school’s loss of buying power.)

It’s time we dig deeper than headlines and truly understand what is at stake here. To help the public do just that, Great Ed and the Colorado Association of School Boards partnered to develop an online budget simulation, Mission: Possible. We encourage you to explore, learn and support education.

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