Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee proposes $500+ million in school cuts

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DENVER — The State’s Joint Budget Committee, tasked with cutting $3.3 billion from Colorado’s yearly budget, submitted a proposal this week that would cut K-12 education by more than $500 million this upcoming school year.

“Every single district in Colorado is going to be impacted and, unfortunately, in a negative way,” Amie Baca-Oehlert, President of Colorado Education Association (CEA), told Denver7.

The CEA is the state’s largest teacher’s union, and Baca-Oehlert said that large of a cut would have devastating effects on each of the state’s 178 districts.

“It means losses to every single district anywhere from potentially 5% of their budget to 10%,” she said, explaining that the state’s funding formula means different districts would be impacted differently.

Some districts, including smaller rural ones, could be hit even harder.

“If we are looking at a 13% to 15% percent budget cut, that means we have to cut difficult things like school sports, art, music, foreign languages,” Charles Childers, a teacher in the Montezuma Cortez School District, told Denver7.

Even before the latest proposed state cuts, Douglas County School District was exploring 30 different options to cut to save money, due to losses from the coronavirus.

“Looking at areas that we want to make sure we protect and areas that we want to say, ‘this may be a place we need to have creativity and flexibility around,’” DCSD’s Board President said during an April board meeting, discussing those 30 options.

This week’s state budget proposal would mean those types of cuts would likely have to be deeper.

A lifeline did come to schools earlier in the week, when Governor Jared Polis allocated $510 million from the federal CARES Act to go to K-12 education.

“But (that funding) can only be used for COVID-related expenses. There are many other expenses that districts face that aren’t related to COVID,” Baca-Oehlert explained.

And another worry from many districts is that next budget year, the legislature may not go right back to approving funding for education at pre-COVID levels, Mmeaning once the CARES Act money is gone, state cuts could linger.

The proposal from the Joint Budget Committee will now go to the House and Senate for discussion and potential changes.

“It could change but it is looking like a dire picture right now,” Baca-Oehlert said.