Colorado Children’s Budget 2012

Date Posted: December 19, 2012

State investments in Colorado children have decreased 2 percent per year, on average, in the past five years after accounting for inflation and population growth, according to an annual analysis by the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Five years of state spending examined in the Colorado Children’s Budget 2012 shows that investments in child health, education, and safety are not keeping up with a growing child population.

Less than a third of the state’s total spending is invested in children, according to the analysis. In the current fiscal year, 32 percent of total appropriations were for services impacting children—down from 37 percent in the 2011-12 fiscal year. The annual analysis by the state’s leading voice for kids serves as a resource for state leaders and policy makers as they examine how Colorado finances investments in children. The report breaks down spending into four areas: early childhood development and learning, child health, K-12 education and other support and safety services for children and families.

“There are many signs that the worst of the economic downturn is behind us, and we have an opportunity to be strategic about where we make investments as Colorado’s revenues rebound,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “Restoring cuts to education and health services that help kids grow up strong should be our first priority, and we’re encouraged by the governor’s state budget proposal for 2013.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year includes new investments in early childhood education, K-12 education, and health. In addition, those areas were included as recommendations in the grassroots TBD Colorado process.

Key findings of the report:

  • Colorado’s support for early childhood development and learning programs has decreased in the past five years. This trend continues despite solid evidence that shows early childhood investments offer significant returns on investment in the short- and long-term, and are the most efficient and effective ways to ensure school readiness and close achievement gaps.
  • Investment in the K-12 education system accounts for two-thirds of all spending on children, but has failed to keep pace with inflation and population growth.
  • Health services and programs account for a growing share of the state’s investments in children. The number of uninsured Colorado children has declined in recent years due to efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to get more children insured, as well as increased eligibility for public coverage for families whose incomes have dropped during the Great Recession. This secure, stable health coverage has helped working families ensure children get the care they need, when they need it.

The Colorado Children’s Budget 2012 analysis also shows that during the past five years, investments in programs serving children generally failed to keep up with inflation and child population growth unless they were protected in the state constitution, had a dedicated revenue source or were able to leverage federal matching dollars. As the federal government nears the deadline for averting the “fiscal cliff,” many services including Head Start and child care assistance for working families could be vulnerable to deep cuts.

“Historically, services that children depend on for food, safety and security have been among the hardest hit during tough economic times,” Watney said. “It is both short-sighted and against most Americans’ values to let children suffer as a result of our nation’s inability to thoughtfully resolve the budget crisis.”

Special Thanks to our sponsor, First Focus.

Colorado Children's Budget 2012