DENVER, CO– The House Education Committee today unanimously passed the 2021 School Finance Act, annual legislation that sets funding levels for all of Colorado’s school districts and charter schools. The bill restores reductions to K-12 funding that the legislature made last year in the wake of dire budget forecasts that predicted significant revenue declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we recover from the pandemic, we have to do everything we can to build back stronger, and that means putting students, parents and teachers first to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to thrive,” said JBC Vice Chair Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “This year’s budget, which I was proud to help craft as a member of the Joint Budget Committee, invested $480 million to restore funding to pre-pandemic levels. The School Finance Act we passed today funds critical grant programs that support our students and will increase per-pupil funding so that every district in our state will see a fair and equitable increase in state resources.”
“By increasing funding for education and ensuring that school districts have more of the resources they need, we will put Colorado on the path to bounce back stronger from the pandemic,” said Education Committee Chair Rep. Baraba McLachlan, D-Durango, a teacher. “Every child in our state should have access to the high quality, public education they need to succeed. Students, parents and teachers have all been through so much this last year, and I’m proud that we are dedicating as much funding as possible to provide school districts with additional resources as they seek to help students overcome the impacts of COVID-19-related learning disruptions.”
This year’s budget includes an 8.7 percent increase for K-12 funding over the 2020-21 school year, a $480 million increase. Sponsored by JBC Vice Chair Representatives Julie McCluskie and House Education Chair Representative Barbara McLachlan, the School Finance Act allocates the state share of school districts’ total program funding based on the school finance formula. This year, the school finance formula starts with a base of $7,225 per student, a two percent increase from last year. When additional funding for at-risk students is factored in, the average per-pupil spending is approximately $8,857 per student, an increase of 9.7 percent over last year, which is the result of additional funding included in the bill for at-risk students.
Lawmakers last year were forced to increase the Budget Stabilization Factor due to pandemic-related revenue losses. Some of the impact of these reductions was blunted by the distribution of federal stimulus resources directly to school districts. This year’s School Finance Act restores the Budget Stabilization Factor to where it was before the devastation of the pandemic. By reducing the Budget Stabilization Factor, each school district in Colorado will see a fair and equal, per-pupil increase to the state share of total program funding they receive.
The School Finance Act also restores funding to grant programs that were cut last year. These grant programs offer a number of critical services such as dropout prevention, literacy attainment, access to advanced placement courses, special education, bullying prevention and behavioral health support.