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Report Card: Colorado Failing Public Schools

PHOTO: Colorado got an "F" for effort in a new national report card on public education from the Education Law Center. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy.
PHOTO: Colorado got an "F" for effort in a new national report card on public education from the Education Law Center. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy.
June 11, 2015

DENVER - A new report card from the Education Law Center gives Colorado a failing grade when it comes to educating the state's students.

The report found public school funding in most states continues to be unfair, shortchanging the nation's 49 million public school students, especially those living in poverty.

Lisa Weil with Great Education Colorado says the state earned its bad grades, and needs to do a better job of giving kids the opportunities they need to succeed.

"What America is built on is making sure every student has a fair shot at success," she says. "And we can't do that for our kids. We can't do that the way previous generations did for us until we step up and we start making it a higher priority."

Colorado invests only 2.8 percent of its gross state product in education funding, according to the report. Weil adds that unlike other states, Colorado falls short of the base funding levels needed to educate students, creating a significant obstacle for the state's impoverished children. More than half of all public school students nationwide now come from low-income families.

The report also found that, despite an economic rebound, states have been slow to restore cuts to K-12 education triggered by the Great Recession, and funding is stuck below pre-recession levels in many states.

Due to its flat funding model, Colorado received a "C" grade for moving money from wealthier school districts into poorer districts and areas with lower property tax values. Weil says all of Colorado's school districts are underfunded.

"We are $2,500 below the national average per pupil when adjusted for regional cost differences," she says. "We're $1,000 behind where we were just on inflation from five years ago."

Weil adds that unlike education models in other developed nations, public education in the U.S. is a state responsibility, accounting for approximately 90 percent of all school funding.

The report concludes that Colorado isn't alone, noting most state systems are not designed to deliver fair, equitable funding to their public schools.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO