News from the schools: Colo. spending on schools dismal and getting worse

A brief shocking but not surprising piece posted at the Great Education website today is making waves. It was also posted at the politics-insider Colorado Pols blogsite as a reminder to lawmakers as the legislative session begins that the unavoidable cuts that will be made to the K-12 budget this year will be devastating.

broken down school bus

This report comes in the wake of news that, months into the project, conservative Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry put a halt to his state’s application to win millions of dollars in Race to the Top federal Department of Education funds. With urban graduation rates in Texas hovering around 50 percent, Texas would seem ill-prepared to toss away funding opportunities.

By almost all metrics, Colorado’s schools are worse off than the schools in Texas. Yet state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, today followed Perry’s lead, urging state lawmakers to reject the $200 million to $400 million in funding Colorado might win from the program. Colorado is completing its Race to the Top application in the coming days. Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien has made the application a top priority.

Below an excerpt (the entire thing, really) from the Great Education report. (Major hat-tip to Colorado Pols. Go to the original Great Ed “Race to the Bottom” report to check out the source links.):

As state leaders do important work in promoting Colorado’s application for federal Race to the Top education reform dollars, Colorado itself continues to gain ground in its race to the bottom when it comes to K-12 funding. Education Week’s annual Quality Counts state school finance data study is out, and the news isn’t good for Colorado. We’re continuing “the Colorado trajectory” — falling farther behind the nation and other states that are competing with us for jobs, economic development opportunities and educators.

Per pupil funding, adjusted for regional cost differences:

2008: 38th nationally
2009: 40th
2010: 42nd

Per pupil spending (adjusted for regional cost differences) compared to U.S. Average:

2008: $1,034 below the national average
2009: $1,449 below the national average
2010: $1,919 below the national average

Rank in percent of taxable income spent on K-12

2008: 43rd
2009: 43rd
2010: 43rd (Hallelujah!)

Rank in teacher pay parity (i.e., how teacher salaries compare to salaries in comparable professions)

2008: 43rd
2010: 50th

That’s the context for the current legislative session — where cuts of at least an average $440 per pupil are virtually certain for the coming school year.

How about a comparison with our neighboring states? We are falling precipitously behind our geographically close competitors:

How much more do neighboring states spend per pupil?
Wyoming:
2008: $3,718 more per pupil than Colorado
2009: $5,612 more
2010: $7,748 more

Nebraska:
2008: $1,991 more per pupil than Colorado
2009: $2,509 more
2010: $3,265 more

Kansas
2008: $923 more per pupil than Colorado
2009: $1,702 more
2010: $2,285 more

New Mexico
2008: $492 more per pupil than Colorado
2009: $1,011 more
2010: $1,452 more

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