Return On Investment

We couldn’t be any more upset at the speech given about education at the RNC. Our schools are NOT failing! WE are failing to invest in them properly!

It’s no secret that kids in a disadvantaged socioeconomic environment don’t do as well on tests. If you didn’t know where you were sleeping that night or were worried that your family was about to be evicted, would you be focused on your school subjects like math and science? What about the kids who have families who don’t speak English and need a little help with homework? What about those children who don’t know if they’ll have dinner tonight and lunch just wasn’t quite enough?

For a lot of children, specials classes are their only escape from their thoughts. Lots of kids report subjects like band and orchestra kept them in school. What about the kids who can’t afford instruments? It’s not as if we can supply them as we continue to underfund our schools. Some programs are lucky in that they have donations or PTAs that supply the equipment but that’s not the case at all schools.

Our schools are NOT failing!

They’re doing incredibly well. Especially considering the lack of investment we’ve made in them. We know, based on facts, that all districts would like to be able to provide more interventionists for our neediest kids. More mental health providers, more reading and math specialists, more after school programs, increased instructional time. But there’s this downward trend –


The Principles of School Finance: What is a School Finance System? For more information on School Financeclick on the School Finance tab on the left side of this page. Introductory pages within School Finance tab:

  • School Finance 101 contains overview information on school finance;
  • Briefing Documents is a series of one and two-page documents with short descriptions on a variety of school finance related topics
  • School Finance 201 (created in August 2015) contains information about potential budget impacts to K-12 funding and budgets. The information in School Finance 201 was created to help districts and state education leaders prepare for what may happen with school finance and how it could impact Colorado’s school districts.

 From our friends at

July 2016

The Gap in Per Pupil Spending 2012-13 (audited data so lags behind current data) document is here.

2016-17 District Budget Cut Conversations – DRAFT – UPDATED 7/18/2016 – Subject to change as new information becomes available. Prior year District Budget Cut Conversations (FY 2009-10 through FY 2015-16, the negative factor years) is here.

The gap between Colorado’s per pupil spending in 2012-13 and the U.S. Average:

With the Negative Factor:
*    Colorado spent $ -2,053 less than the U.S. Average.
*    Ranking Colorado 40th in per pupil spending.

If Colorado with no Negative Factor:
*    Colorado would have spent $ -816 less than the U.S.
*    Ranking Colorado 28th in per pupil spending, below the
U.S. Average.

The gap between the average per pupil spending of the top 5 states
compared to the U.S. Average:

*    The top 5 per pupil spending states (New York, Alaska,
Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Connecticut) spent $7,330 more than the U.S. Average.


So let’s seriously talk about school choice. We all want it. Parents are driving themselves crazy driving all over to find that one school that will ensure their child has the best possible future. We are basing our decisions on one test score and websites that actually put a letter grade on schools but don’t use appropriate calculations that actually show real growth or look at a full body of evidence. In other words, that data is skewed.

A few years ago, a PTA contacted me and a friend about filing a complaint about grading schools and the way teacher evaluations were done because with their free and reduced population being so high, they felt it incentivized teachers to not apply for jobs at their school. They have a good point. They also know that information was not representative of their school and because of their own research and knowledge, they knew they had a great environment for their kids.

A shiny new building does not make a good school. Great test scores do not make a good school. The word “academy” or “college” or “Gucci” or anything else in a name does not necessarily indicate that the school is better than the one down the road. Good leadership and good teachers make a good school. Parental involvement can make it great! Appropriate resources can make a school excellent!

Most people find that their neighborhood school fits their needs but there are some who can benefit from more differentiation or special programs available elsewhere. Visiting a school and meeting the leadership will help a parent to decide if the environment feels right.

Seriously though, enough with the failing schools rhetoric. We have friends and supporters at neighborhood schools, option schools, charter schools and even private schools. Making a choice for what is right for your family is fine. But give our neediest school populations every opportunity and don’t label them. They’re doing good work and they’re doing that work despite inadequate resources. Actually, in looking at some of the growth scores of those neediest populations, other schools could even benefit from duplicating those interventions in their own.

In Colorado, from 1980 to 2013, Colorado increased PK-12 education spending by 103%, but by comparison we increased spending on corrections by 513%. We find this unacceptable.

Those comments made during that speech are not accurate and they are demeaning to all public education staff as well as our students. Education and our schools should not be in the middle of a political tug-of-war regarding all the things that are “wrong.” We’d like to hear from candidates and/or speakers who tell us what they stand for and what they want to do to provide for our public schools adequately.

We believe investment  in public education offers a great return on investment and the data shows that we are correct. What are you for?