Teachers draw attention to Colorado’s inadequate and inequitable school funding
Thousands of teachers from around the state marched on the Colorado State Capitol on Thursday and today to call for more funding for education, better pay for educators, and secure retirement benefits. We support the teachers and others calling for more adequate and equitable funding.
Many analyses place Colorado in the bottom tier for education funding, depending on the measures and methodology used. We know that because of our inadequate and inequitable revenue system and outdated funding formula, funding per pupil varies widely among districts. More than half of the state’s school districts are now operating on four days a week–in many cases to save money.
One study released this month ranks Colorado dead last in a comparison teacher compensation in Colorado with the salaries of other professionals in the same labor market and of similar age, degree level and hours worked. Between the 1999-2000 and 2016-2017 school years, teacher salaries in Colorado fell by 15 percent after adjusting for inflation, and most teachers can’t afford to rent or own a home in Denver. Of course, districts that have passed local mill levy overrides or have other local forms of support are able to offer more competitive salaries. If we expect the best and brightest to choose education as a profession, we must provide all educators with the support and compensation they deserve.
The School Finance Act, passed annually by the legislature, is nearing passage in the second chamber. This year’s act devotes more money to education than in any year since 2010, when the “budget stabilization factor” came into effect. Over eight years, the impact of the budget stabilization factor has been a loss of $6 billion compared to what schools and districts should have received for education. Given the constitutional and budget constraints the legislature must operate within, this year’s increased investment in kids (which will average out to about $475 per pupil) should be celebrated. A separate bill (Senate Bill 18-200) that would reform the state’s pension system, including teacher’s benefits, is also still under work.
An alternative to the current school finance system was introduced earlier this session but was killed this week. House Bill 18-1232 would have created a modernized, student-centric formula. We were disappointed to see the bill postponed indefinitely this week in the House Education committee, but are grateful to the state’s superintendents and Rep. Dave Young for bringing the bill forward and advancing an important conversation. We look forward to taking these efforts even further next year, and continuing to work with partners on structural fixes to Colorado’s inequitable and unsustainable preK-12 revenue system. All of our voices play a vital role in these efforts.