In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Colorado
  • Tommy E. Jackson (bio) and Tamela C. Thomas (bio)

Colorado's budget lists $31.7 billion as the amount for total funds in its state. Analyst suggests the figure is closer to $30.3 billion due to double-counted dollars and exclusion of spending on state capital projects.1 The current budget requires three percent less spending than the state previously anticipated.2 Additionally, to balance the budget, the state used various one-time funds to address a $3.07 billion deficit. Notably, one-time funds used to cover this multi-billion-dollar deficit will not be available for the next budget cycle. Revenue from the general fund is projected to decrease and will continue to reduce by 10.5 percent in the upcoming fiscal year.3 The Polis administration projected tax revenue to decrease by half, which, assuredly, forces the governor to make budget cuts via executive order.4 This projection highlights the state treasurer's warning that Colorado was the only state in the country that did not have enough reserves to manage an economic recession.5 Governor Polis, through House Bill 1420, abrogated multiple tax breaks to generate new revenue that generated close to $180 million. The state will redirect those funds to education and reduce the deficit presented by the budget.

funding priorities for p-12 and/or higher education

The Colorado General Assembly approved a budget that cut education funding drastically. K-12 and higher education funding were reduced by $621 million and $598 million, respectively.6 The Joint Budget Committee's (JBC) most extensive budget cuts derive from K-12 schools, higher education, and healthcare.7 Education accounts for approximately 40 percent of Colorado's general fund; therefore, the JBC deemed it [End Page 254] impossible to make such massive cuts without reducing the number of funds directed toward education. Though education took a massive cut to its budget, Governor Polis redirected stimulus funds—$510 million—to K-12 and $450 million to higher education to account for the reduction.

The JBC also proposed a $225 million reduction to the state's contributions to the Public Employees'Retirement Association (PERA) system.8 Additionally, the JBC recommended reducing the state's cash reserves, which legally must be 7.25 percent of the general fund9. Along with the reserve reduction, the state must now redirect more than $160 million in healthcare funds that typically extend care to uninsured and Medicaid citizens.

The State of Colorado funding priorities FY 2020-2021:

  • Health Care–12.025 billion

  • K-12 Education–5.604 billion

  • HigherEducation–3.971 billion

  • Human Services–2.274 billion

  • Judicial–824 million

  • Corrections–959 million.10

changes to funding formula p-12 and/or higher education

Colorado's funding formula is criticized for being outdated and unreasonably distributing more funds to well-to-do districts than poorer districts in the state. The 25-year-old formula has been redrafted and voted on previously, but the revised formula failed due to politically-charged reasons and the voters'refusal of a tax increase for schools.11 In Colorado, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) decrees voters must approve tax increases, and with the previous rejection of Amendment 73, funding will continue to be an issue for changing the funding formula.

pressing state issues affecting p-12 and/or higher education funding

Colorado is in the midst of a recession that has already affected the FY 2020-2021 budget. There are economic projections that state the budget will decrease further due to the state's struggling economy. In response to the impact of Covid-19 on the Colorado budget, the JBC estimated a 23.6 percent reduction to the general fund. At the end of 2019, the general fund was approximately $13.617 billion, but by mid-2020, the fund decreased to $10.755 billion, approximately a 21 percent reduction.12 Colorado's most pressing economic issue is its economic recovery after the state closed due to Covid-19. [End Page 255]

exclusive to p-12: what are the alternatives to traditional public schools offered by the state? what does the trend in funding look like for these alternatives?

Colorado has 1,914 schools, 415 being...