Colorado Children’s Budget 2013

Date Posted: December 20, 2013

State investments in Colorado children have decreased 3 percent per year, on average, in the past five years after accounting for inflation and child 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 2013 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, just less than 30 percent of state appropriations (from the state’s General Fund, cash funds and federal funds) were for services impacting children—down from 34 percent in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

“Children are our greatest asset, and that’s why Colorado invests significant resources in their healthy development and education,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “As the economy continues to recover, we must recognize that state investments in children during the past five years aren’t keeping up with inflation and child population growth. This isn’t a sustainable trend if we want to give every child in Colorado the opportunity for a bright future, and it doesn’t reflect the values of a state that is dedicated to ensuring that all kids succeed.”

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 learning and development, child health, K-12 education and family and community support. Key findings of the report:

  • Investments in early childhood learning and development remain underfunded and have decreased during the past five years. There were some slight increases in the current fiscal year for expanding access to quality early learning, but the overall five-year trend is concerning because childhood poverty is increasing among Colorado’s youngest children. About one in five children under 6 is living in poverty. Children in poverty are at higher risk of starting school without the basic skills needed to succeed.
  • 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. The K-12 system has experienced significant funding cuts as a result of the negative factor, which reduced each school district’s funding by 15.5 percent in FY 2013-14. Meanwhile, Colorado schools have experienced growth in overall enrollment and in low-income student populations.
  • 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 2013 analysis also shows that during the past five years, investments in programs serving children 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 a result of federal budget cuts known as “sequestration,” many services including Head Start and child care assistance for working families have suffered deep cuts.

Special Thanks to our sponsor, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

Colorado Children's Budget 2013