Wednesday Churn: Budget outlook worse

Updated 1:30 p.m. – The state’s revenue and spending problem is even worse than previously projected, according to the second installment of a study by the Center for Colorado’s Economic Future at the University of Denver.

“Twelve years from now, Colorado will generate only enough sales, income and other general-purpose tax revenue to pay for the three largest programs in the General Fund – public schools, health care and prisons. There will be no tax revenue for public colleges and universities, no money for the state court system, nothing for child-protection services, nothing for youth corrections, nothing for state crime labs and nothing for other core services of state government,” according to a summary of the report.

Discussing school finance, the report paints a scenario designed to protect to some extent other state departments. “Under this scenario, public schools would be cut at least 19 percent in 13 of 14 years from now until FY 2024-25, and they would be cut the maximum amount in 10 of those 14 years,” the report says.

The 2010 legislature commissioned the center to do the privately funded study. The first installment was unveiled last February (see story). The latest segment was released today.

Projected spending from the state general fund, much of it driven by formulas and requirements, will exceed revenue by $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2024-25, the report estimates. (Current general fund spending runs about $7 billion a year, roughly half consumed by K-12 and higher education.)

“The enormity of this gap suggests that Coloradans consider both tax increases and spending cuts, the Center finds. Attempting to dig out of this hole solely through cuts is problematic,” the statement said.

Among options suggested by the center are a new school finance system, establishment of a graduated income tax to replace the current flat rate and extension of the state sales tax to cover more services.

The report notes that a key way to control state education costs would be to stabilize or increase the local share of education spending, which has been falling steadily for years and now stands at about 35 percent of K-12 costs.

“The structural aspects causing the local share to erode can be addressed by moving toward a more uniform statewide mill levy for schools,” the report found.

That could be done by imposing a uniform mill levy throughout the state, a uniform mill levy coupled with a statewide property tax or by replacing local property taxes with a statewide tax.

A statewide property tax would require voter approval to changes in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and any of the options would impose higher taxes on many property owners.

The report comes out just as the Lobato v. State lawsuit trial is winding down. Plaintiffs in that case argue that the school finance system violates the state constitution and ask the court to order the legislature to come up with a new one.

Just starting is the campaign to pass Proposition 103, a ballot measure that would increase state tax rates for five years to provide “stopgap” funding for schools and colleges. Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder and the author of 103, also was a prime mover in commissioning the tax study.

Get more details on the report here, and test out the center’s interactive budget simulator here.

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What’s churning

The order of the ballot is set for the Denver Public Schools board election, following a random drawing Tuesday of candidates’ names by elections officials.

Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division, announced that nine candidates have qualified for the Nov. 1 mail ballot. Three of seven DPS board seats are up for election.

Ballot order is determined by random drawing because school board races are non-partisan elections.

The order on the ballot for the at-large or citywide race is as follows:

  • Happy Haynes
  • Roger Kilgore
  • John Daniel
  • Jacqui Shumway
  • Frank Deserino

In each of the other two seats being contested, there are only two candidates.

In District 1 or southeast Denver, where current board member Bruce Hoyt is term-limited, the first name on the ballot will be Emily Sirota and the second will be Anne Rowe.

And in District 5 or northwest Denver, Jennifer Draper Carson’s name will appear atop that of Arturo Jimenez, who is campaigning for a second four-year term.

Denver must certify its ballot to the Secretary of State by the close of business Friday – but, since Friday is a furlough day for city employees, that will likely be done one day sooner.

Mail ballots will go out to voters in the second week of October.

Ballot orders for candidates in other large metro area districts, including Jefferson and Douglas counties, are not yet set. See a listing of school board candidates in the state’s three largest districts here.

What’s on tap:


The University of Denver’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future will present the second installment of its study of Colorado’s state and local tax systems, including recommendations. The session will be at 10:30 a.m. in the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management building on the DU campus. See this EdNews story for details on the report’s first installment, issued last February.

Denver Public Schools is hosting a coffee for parents of special education students from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at 1330 Fox Street in Denver. More info.

Good reads from elsewhere

On the moveJohn Covington, the former superintendent of Pueblo City Schools who publicly called for an investigation of the Cesar Chavez charter schools network there, is on the move again, from Kansas City to Michigan, according to this report from the New York Times.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”