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EdWeek Per Pupil Spending Comparison: Dollars Above and Below National Average - See graphs

Trends In Per Pupil Spending: Colorado vs. National Average FY 1996 - 2018 - See graph

Colorado Ranks

Note: The above stats are based on most current information available. Data are lagging indicators due to auditing.

Only Florida reports a higher proportion of novice teachers in the classroom (Education Week, October 2016).

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The Great Education Colorado Index

Stats on School Districts with 4-day School Week

  • 50% of Colorado districts (89 out of 178 school districts) are on or have some schools on 4-day school weeks.
  • Over 50% growth in 4-day school weeks since 2005-06.
  • The number of schools on 4-day school weeks has more than doubled since 2000.

Source: The Four-Day School Week Manual, Colorado Department of Education, August 2016

2021 4day school week

The Graph That Says It All

Falling Red Line 2018

More than a million dollars more for a school of 500 — if Colorado were just getting a ‘C’ …

The falling red line on this graph shows how Colorado’s per pupil funding compares to the national average from 1972-2018.  It shows that, as of 2018 (the most recent data available), Colorado spent $2,205 less per pupil than the national average, continuing a 30-year slide in national competitiveness.

How did we get here? In 1982, we passed the Gallagher Amendment, which started eroding the local property tax base by continually reducing the assessment rate (the percent of the value of a home that is taxed). From 1982-1992, school districts were able to stabilize local revenues by floating mill rates up.

In 1992, voters passed TABOR, which took away the ability of districts to float their mill rates without a vote of the people and limited the state’s ability to backfill the hole left by declining property tax rates. As a result, per pupil funding didn’t even keep up with inflation during the 90s.

In 2000, Colorado voters passed Amendment 23 to reverse K-12 cuts of the 1990s. As the graph indicates, per pupil spending in 2000 was already nearly $700 per pupil below the national average.

Unfortunately, Amendment 23 became a ceiling and not the protective floor it was originally intended to be. In addition, its measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which does not reflect the kinds of things that school districts must pay for, like health care, heating, cooling and fuel costs. Worse than that, starting in 2009, the legislature reinterpreted Amendment 23 and established the Negative Factor—allowing deep cuts to schools. As a result of that reinterpretation, schools are currently being funded at a level of $572 million below what the proper interpretation of Amendment 23 requires.

In one bright spot, in 2020, the voters of Colorado passed Amendment B, which stopped further erosion in local funding of schools by preventing any further reduction in the Residential Assessment Rate (in effect repealing the Gallagher Amendment).