↑ Return to BOE Issues

School Funding in Colorado

Click here to see THE GRAPH THAT SAYS IT ALL!

 

School Funding in Colorado

  • In 1980, Colorado spent $473 more per student than the national average.
  • Today, Colorado spends $2059 LESS per student than the national average.Here’s why:1982- Gallagher Amendment locked in the ratio of property taxes collected between business and residential property, forcing property collections to fall, even as home values rose.1992- TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights)- Colorado is the only state with a TABOR law. It is the most restrictive tax and revenue limiting law in the nation. TABOR mandates elections for all tax or debt increases. In other states, elected officials have limited ability to raise revenue for public schools. A taxpayer’s bill of rights sounds good on the surface, but the devil is in the details. TABOR limits revenue collection to a cap set at inflation plus population growth. It requires rebates to taxpayers when revenues exceed this cap. This is known as the “downward ratchet” because while school funding is cut during tough economic times, it is not allowed to recover beyond the rate of inflation when the economy recovers.2000- Amendment 23 required per-pupil funding to increase every year by at least the rate of inflation. For the first 10 years, the law required K-12 funding increases of inflation + 1%, but those increases were never realized.

    2009- Great Recession and the Negative Factor- Tax revenues fell, making it impossible to provide full Amendment 23 funding without devastating other sectors of the state’s budget. Lawmakers introduced the so-called “Negative Factor”, a formula for cutting funds to school districts to help balance the budget. The Negative Factor is the amount our schools were owed under Amendment 23 that

could not be funded. from K-12:

The Negative Factor has subtracted the following amounts

2009-10 $130 million 2010-11 $381 million 2011-12 $774 million 2012-13 $1.01 Billion 2013-14 $1.0 Billion 2014-15 $894 million

Under TABOR, Colorado schools cannot catch up. We are underfunded by a billion dollars a year, but TABOR restricts revenue increases to the rate of inflation.

 

After adjusting for inflation and adding significant new mandates and expectations, Colorado spent $18 less per-pupil in 2012 than it did in 1995.

2015 Surplus- This year, as the economy continues to improve, the state is predicting a surplus in collected revenues. TABOR requires that the surplus be refunded to tax payers via a tax rebate unless the voters decide otherwise. The average taxpayer could get a rebate of around $18.00. Or, we could Keep the Surplus for Kids and begin to restore funding to our schools.

In the private sector, businesses tighten their belts and/or incur debt during lean years. They may lay off workers, cut pay, forgo capital investments, etc. Then, when their profits increase, they can restore capital and operational budgets and invest in reserve funds to help them through the next round of tough economic circumstances. Shouldn’t our schools be able to do the same?

Since TABOR began, our per-pupil funding has steadily dropped against the national average. We endured massive cuts during the Great Recession, but TABOR prohibits us from using surplus revenues to begin to restore those funds.

Keep the Surplus for Kids Petition- Great Education Colorado will be presenting a petition to Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado General Assembly in March asking them to explore all legal options and refer a ballot measure if necessary, so the voters can decide to Keep the Surplus for Kids. Go to Great Education Colorado online to learn more and sign the petition.

Parting Facts-

  • Every state that ranks ahead of Colorado in achievement spends more per-pupil than Colorado.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, Colorado gained 18,600 students and cut 1040 teachers.
  • Today, Colorado spends $2059 LESS per student than the national average.Sources: Great Education Colorado Colorado Fiscal Institute