Rewriting Colorado’s School Funding Formula

Colorado legislators are looking at rewriting or adjusting our state’s school funding formula.  And if you haven’t paid any attention up to now, here’s why we want you to start:

In the 2019/20 school year alone, Colorado’s public schools are underfunded by $572 million, yet legislators will work to adjust a formula which may require the state to make up the difference to the district after it likely loses funding based on the “new formula”.  Even if Prop CC had passed, those dollars would not have been available for this use.

Colorado Public Radio published this story Nov. 6, 2019, Democrats are Rebooting Their Strategy on Tabor and Taxes

“In the Senate, Republicans have identified some $600 million needed for roads, bridges and K-12 education, said Republican Sen. Paul Lundeen. And they may use the Prop CC results as fuel to reform education funding formulas — likely a big topic for the session ahead, said Luke Ragland, president of Ready Colorado, a conservative education group.”

Those formula rewrites are in the works now. The Committee next meets in December to discuss and vote on legislation currently being drafted. Two proposed bills are in the works.  One drafted by Rep. McCluskey (chair of the Interim committee) and one by Sen. Lundeen (vice chair of the committee).  It will be interesting to see what this committee and the General Assembly end up doing as they work to re-adjust the various categories, without additional revenue.

Did we say, this is a rewrite of the funding formula without new revenue?   We can’t stress that enough and hope you get the message!


The Colorado Sun published this article October 29.

“One of the central themes in revising the funding formula is figuring out how to make sure districts receive at least as much state money as they did last year.

“Under a new formula, Zenzinger said, some districts would be bound to receive less money this year than last year, but the state would step up to ensure they received the same level of funding they did last year.”

We continue to scratch our heads and wonder where the funds will come from to help the state do that.

Some of the considerations for the proposed drafts include how to redefine “At Risk” students.

“Lawmakers are also weighing how exactly to define “at-risk” students, which currently is limited to students who qualify for free lunch and some English language learners, McCluskie said.

“Students from low-income families are considered at risk and, across the country, free and reduced lunch is a measure of poverty.”

There has been discussion (along with strong encouragement from the consultants EdBuild) to use Direct Certification for the “At Risk” student category vs the Free Lunch count method currently used.

What is Direct Certification? 

“Direct Certification uses approved assistance program data to automatically approve eligible students for free school meals. Colorado uses an automated online system to directly certify households that participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Migrant Education Program.”

But, you may recall, the Trump Administration just proposed changes to SNAP, which would cause many of our most needy to fall through the cracks.   If you talk to your school district’s CFO, they too will tell you the district will lose funding using that method.

It should be noted, the legislation authorizing the Interim Committee does limit what and how this committee can operate.  SB19-094 specifies that The Committee is “to study the issues …and create a new school finance funding formula.”

Stay tuned.  There are many pieces of the draft legislation that will be proposed on how the state funds schools.   And let’s keep in mind just where Colorado stands in funding our public schools:

  • $2,700 +/- below the national average 

  • We rank at the bottom nationally in teacher pay



  • State revenue grew (between 2011/12 & 2016/17) by 21.6%

  • Local revenue grew by 26.1%

  • Personal income grew by 29.5%