Children’s Budget 2013: Investments in Children Not Keeping Up Despite Revenue Rebound

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 the Colorado Children’s Budget 2013, an annual analysis by the Colorado Children’s Campaign released this week. Five years of state spending examined in the report 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. 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. Click here to read the top findings and download a PDF copy of the report.

An Introduction to TANF in Colorado During the Recession Report Released

The Children’s Campaign released a report in April explaining changes in funding levels for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant during the recession, one of the more important sources of support for low-income families and children. It also explains how the TANF block grants affect a range of programs in Colorado, including the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, Colorado’s child care subsidy program for low-income families. This report, in conjunction with the Colorado Children’s Budget, is intended to serve as a resource guide for policymakers and advocates who are interested in better understanding how Colorado finances children’s programs and services and to help unravel the often confusing and complicated details of the state budget. Click here to read Moving Families Forward: An Introduction to TANF in Colorado During the Recession.

School Readiness for All Report Released

Colorado’s Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care Learning Community has released a new report highlighting the contributions and landscape of Colorado’s FFN care providers. In 2011, Colorado had enough licensed child care to care for only 43 percent of children under age 6 who have all parents in the workforce; the other 57 percent of children are cared for by a family member, friend or neighbor while their parents are at work. To better understand both the contributions to children’s school readiness FFN providers make to the young children in their care as well as the challenges they face to ensure the care they provide is high quality, the FFN Learning Community convened eight community conversations with FFN providers in locations across Colorado beginning in the fall of 2012. School Readiness for All: The Contribution of Family, Friend and Neighbor Care in Colorado captures those conversations, discusses how FFN care fits within the broader early childhood landscape and makes recommendations for additional research and next steps.

KIDS COUNT in Colorado! release set for March 18

Please join us as we release the 2013 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! on March 18 at 2:00 p.m. at a news conference with Gov. John Hickenlooper, lawmakers and child advocates from across the state in the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol. This year we’re excited to feature success stories of individuals and communities who are working to improve the lives of Colorado kids. Click here for more information about the release. Also, see our frequently asked questions about KIDS COUNT in Colorado!

Digital Learning Study Identifies Opportunities and Recommendations for Colorado

Digital learning opportunities are diverse in Colorado. From full-time online courses to the “blended” learning that integrates technology and class work, technology in education takes many shapes. It also has the potential to do much more. A new study released by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, “Digital Learning in Colorado: Opportunities and Recommendations,” outlines steps the state could take to extend learning opportunities for all Colorado students.

The new study was requested by the Colorado Legislature last year to learn more about where we are and what’s possible in the future. It found that successful digital learning courses and schools are transforming the educational experience for some students. Now the challenge is to ensure that all students in Colorado have access to high-quality opportunities and that the outcomes of students in online and blended programs are well tracked, understood and reported.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign believes that if followed, the findings and recommendations of the study have the power to ensure all Colorado kids have access to high quality educational options. Please find the report on our website.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Releases Report on Measures of Effective Teaching

Earlier this week the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released a report crafted by the Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) project to identify a set of measures that can effectively determine educator effectiveness. Colorado is one of a small handful of states the foundation has invested in, looking at our work to implement strong standards for all students, aligned assessments with those standards and a reliable educator effectiveness system to help lead the nation. Denver Public Schools is one of the seven pilot areas used for this study and is helping to drive the data and information that is determining how we identify and support effective educators.

The report focused on one overarching question: What are the right measures to determine educator effectiveness? Researchers found that through a minimum of two classroom observations from at least one person outside of the practitioner’s school, student perception surveys and student achievement gains on assessments, we can strongly identify which teachers will make the greatest impact on student learning, not only on standardized assessments like the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP – formerly the CSAP), but also on math and English assessments that are more cognitively challenging. This information is vital as Colorado works to lead the nation in these types of reforms through implementing the educator evaluation system created in 2010 through the Great Teachers Great Leaders legislation (Senate Bill 10-191).

Click here to view the Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching report.

2012 Children’s Budget Shows Investments in Colorado Children Continue Sliding

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 show 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 state spending went toward services impacting children—down from 37 percent in the 2011-12 fiscal year. The annual analysis 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.”

Click here to read the press release and download a copy of the report.

Alternative Education in Colorado

While a traditional school environment may work well for many students, there are also many for whom it is not the right place to get a meaningful education. The Children’s Campaign’s recently released report, Alternative Education and Pathways to Success, examines Colorado’s Alternative Education Campuses (AECs), compares them to other cities and states and recommends ways that Colorado can strengthen alternative education. They include:

  • Strengthening academic pipelines to ensure that if students struggle in traditional school settings they’re able to find the best alternative education options to meet their unique needs.
  • Ensuring AECs are held to thoughtful accountability standards that support not only the social-emotional needs of students, but also drive academic growth and success.
  • Building strong communication between General Education Diploma (GED) companies and school districts so students who pursue a GED have the support they need to be successful.

All Colorado kids deserve an education that prepares them to pursue college, careers and happiness. It is our job to ensure that happens by providing high quality educational options that meet the needs of every child. For more information, please view the report here. Special thanks to the JPMorgan Chase Foundation for making this report possible.

Progress of Turnaround Schools Shows Promise; More Work Ahead

Intense efforts to turn around underperforming schools are making gains, including unprecedented successes in Far Northeast Denver and the Westminster 50 school district, according to a report released this week by A+ Denver. However, the evaluation found that not every district working on turning around schools had a strategy that was working.

Colorado Turnaround Schools—Rays of Hope tracked $51.5 million in School Improvement Grants to Colorado’s lowest-performing schools. A+ Denver examined districts’ reforms and evaluated progress with recently released Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (formerly the CSAP assessments). By comparing districts’ efforts and performance data, the report pinpointed successful practices and areas for improvement. These include the intensive and individualized support given to students in Far Northeast Denver that helped yield strong results for children. The report was produced in partnership with Together Colorado, Colorado Succeeds, Colorado Children’s Campaign and DFER-Colorado.

Both Denver and Westminster were commended in the report for “confronting significant challenges, and executing on the tough decisions that give them an opportunity for positive lasting outcomes.” Turning around low-performing schools is challenging work, however these lessons help Colorado identify success and struggles and point the way to sustained progress. Too many students, particularly our most vulnerable, across our state are not getting the strong education they deserve. We will continue to focus on our turnaround schools and districts as we learn more about what is and is not working for students.