School Funding | KUNC

School Funding

Scott Franz

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed what he is calling is the most difficult budget in state history because of the impacts of COVID-19.

There were no large banners celebrating legislative accomplishments like there were last year.

And when the lean budget goes into effect July 1, Colorado's public schools will take one of the biggest hits, with more than $500 million missing from their budgets.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

School may be out for the summer, but principals and superintendents across the state will be hard at work to make sure schools are staffed up for the fall. An estimated 3,000 teachers are needed to fill vacant positions from Durango to Denver. Meanwhile, the state is graduating nearly 25 percent fewer certified teachers -- and a third of teachers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

School funding was one of the key issues tackled by Colorado lawmakers in the 2017 legislative session. The state’s long-standing funding model has forced public schools to operate at a deficit since the recession. But lawmakers have not only committed to a study of the state’s school funding model, but also gave schools a small per-pupil cash bump for the next fiscal year.

Angie Garrett / Flickr

It’s no news that Colorado’s schools have faced a funding crunch in the years since the great recession. And the same is true across the nation. To fill the gap, schools have increasingly turned to their teachers to foot the bill for classroom supplies -- in fact, most teachers are now asked to do so. As this practice has become more common, so too has another: crowdfunding for that money.

In its first ever report measuring this phenomenon, crowdfunding giant GoFundMe found that 91 percent of teachers across the country used their own money to pay for school supplies last year.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

With mere days left in Colorado’s legislative session, lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee took up what started out as a rather slim school finance act, the bill that sets funding levels for all of the state’s 178 school districts each year. Because next year’s budget hasn’t been pinned down, part of the bill’s debate hinged on the uncertainty of funds. But the bill still left the committee, weighed down with an unexpected amendment -- one that would require school districts to share funds from voter-approved property tax hikes and bond issues with their charter schools.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

Colorado continues to see population growth, which is leaving many schools facing a problem: too many students, too little room. This year, the squeeze is pushing more local school districts to turn to voters for relief.

Seven districts along the Front Range have approved tax increase or bond sale resolutions for their local ballots. Nearly all the appeals identify maintenance, new buildings, improvements and security upgrades as pressing needs.