Addressing Funding for Education, The Latest

Colorado’s 2019 Legislative Session ends May 3rd, the 120th day, which means our legislators have less than 25 days left in this session to address funding for our public schools.

It’s well worth noting, anything – anything – that would significantly increase education funding must maneuver through our state’s constitutional obstacles: TABOR, Gallagher, and Amendment 23.

As was pointed out by President of the Colorado Education Association, Amie Baca-Oehlert’s, recent statement concerning “the lack of increased budget stabilization factor buy-down in approving the 2019-20 state budget”:

“Funding for public education and respecting educators were common themes in last November’s election.”

So, that being said… where do we stand with increased funding for public education?  

Let’s reframe that question – where do we stand with significantly increased funding for public education?

As we think about what “significantly increased funding” would look like, let’s begin by revisiting where we are today.

  • Dollars still owed our schools, i.e., the Budget Stabilization Factor/Negative Factor is well over a half billion dollars per year –  $672 million*
  • Since the Great Recession, the amount owed to our public schools has exceeded $7 billion. ($7.5 billion) *
  • Depending on the source, Colorado spends between $2,000 and $2,800 less per pupil than the National Average.*
  • Reaching the National Average would cost $2.1 – $2.8 billion*
  • 104 of the state’s 178 school districts have one or more schools on a four day week*
  • We are ranked 42nd nationally in per pupil spending (ranked further down the list on per pupil funding)
  • We rank last in the country in wage competitiveness for teachers


After reviewing the current status, what do you consider significant increased funding?

Have we resigned ourselves to being so far behind that we are satisfied and willing to rejoice over a meager $77 million buy down of the negative factor?

Just to be fair, let’s revisit what legislation we’ve seen thus far that will/could positively impact our public ed funding:

  • $77 million buy down of the negative factor (Long Bill)
  • $12.9 million – amount House agreed to keep with schools from the mid-year adjustment that would have otherwise been sent to the state’s general fund

  • $185 million Full Day Kindergarten – parents will no longer be charged for tuition for FDK.  Many schools had already been providing this FDK, but will now receive funding for 1 FTE instead of a .58

If HB19-1257 (Proposition CC) passes in November of 2019, K-12 would receive One-Time funding for FY2019-20  of $21.6 million (one third of $64.8 million)

The only new funding legislation (outside the Long Bill) in play at this time are HB19-1257 and 1258.  These two bills send a referred bill (1257) to the voters this year to approve the state be allowed to keep revenue generated by existing taxes that exceed the TABOR Cap for K-12, Higher Ed and Transportation (equal thirds).   State economists estimate that amount for FY2019-20 to be $64.8 million.

You can read more specifics about these two bills at the end of this article.

Considering the Full Day Kindergarten funding does nothing to buy down the Negative (B.S.) Factor; and the $12.9 million is funding schools are “allowed to keep” so this is not applied against the Negative Factor either.  Some quick math:

$672 M Negative Factor – $77 M Buy down = $595 M Negative Factor

Doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten very far this year, does it?  Our point, again:

Have we resigned ourselves to being so far behind that we are satisfied and willing to rejoice over a meager $77 million buy down of a $672 million negative factor?  

Chalkbeat’s Sandra Fish – Apr 5

HB19-1257 aka Proposition CC

“Proposition CC unless another statutory measure is referred at an earlier date. With voter approval, Proposition CC permits the state to retain and spend or save all revenue it collects in FY 2019-20 and subsequent years as a voter-approved revenue change under the TABOR amendment. Revenue retained under Proposition CC is required to be spent for:

  • public schools;
  • higher education; and
  • roads, bridges, and transit.”

HB19-1258 dictates distribution for funds from Proposition CC (if passed by voters in November of 2019)

“This bill takes effect only if HB 19-1257 is adopted by the General Assembly and approved by voters at the November 2019 statewide election as Proposition CC. If approved, Proposition CC requires that revenue collected in excess of the state TABOR limit (Referendum C cap) be retained and spent for public schools, higher education, and transportation projects. This bill requires that excess revenue be set aside in the General Fund exempt account and that, in the succeeding year:

  • the General Assembly appropriate one-third of the retained amount for higher education;
  • the General Assembly appropriate one-third of the retained amount for public schools, to be distributed on a per pupil basis and used only for nonrecurring expenses for the purpose of
    improving classrooms; and
  • the state treasurer transfer one-third of the retained amount to the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF).
  • The bill specifies that revenue appropriated to school districts may not be used as part of a district reserve. Revenue transferred to the HUTF is allocated as follows:
    • 60 percent to the State Highway Fund (SHF) for use for the state’s strategic transportation project investment program;
    • 22 percent to counties for county transportation projects, distributed according to a current law formula; and
    • 18 percent to municipalities for municipal transportation projects, distributed according to a current law formula.”