Rural school funding axed in School Finance Act deal

A handful of rural school districts in Colorado will have to shoulder millions in budget cuts on their own, the result of a fraught compromise adopted Tuesday by the bipartisan sponsors of the annual School Finance Act in both the Senate and then the House.

The deal struck will impact 10 rural school districts. Seven of the 10 are on the Eastern Plains. All 10 face a decline in property-tax revenues from the dwindling energy and mining industries. To survive, the districts turned to the state for funding, most of them for the first time.

Along with first-time ever state funding, however, some of those districts also will have to shoulder their share of budget cuts the rest of the state’s 178 school districts covered six years ago.

Six of the ten will tap into $1 million in grants from a state Department of Education contingency fund to help make up some of the dollars they will be losing.

Each district would be eligible to receive a maximum of 25 percent of the cuts they face.

Four districts weren’t eligible because they had either taken state grants to cover budget cuts in the past or had relied on state funding for their schools through the School Finance Act.

Kirk Bangert, president of the Rural Schools Alliance, criticized the decision to eliminate relief for two of the state’s smallest rural school districts, in Cripple Creek and Pawnee.

Said Bangert, “the JBC has made the decision to ignore the problems facing these districts and to severely scale back relief provided to the other locally funded districts.”

“Pawnee and Cripple Creek will now be forced to take an immediate 12 percent cut to their budget. With this cut, school children in Cripple Creek and Pawnee, as well as the other districts impacted by this decision, will be without their valuable teachers, and the JBC will have to explain to these school children and their parents why.”

In additional to Cripple Creek, which will tackle a $431,0000 shortfall on its own, Fort Lupton will shoulder $2 million, the Pawnee School District $164,000, and Briggsdale $273,000 in cuts.

The compromise avoided putting a $2.5 million hole in the recently-passed state budget, said Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon, the bill’s House sponsor.


Photo credit: Ali Em, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


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