Press Release: Public education saddled with a $1.18 billion deficit as elected leaders fail to come to agreement on ways to increase revenue for public education


June 16, 2020

Public education saddled with a $1.18 billion deficit as elected leaders fail to come to agreement on ways to increase revenue for public education

DENVER – Colorado’s 2020 legislative session opened with public education facing a $577 million deficit before the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 ballooned the deficit to an unprecedented $1.18 billion. The 39,000 members of the Colorado Education Association (CEA) engaged in record activism to ensure that legislators heard from front-line professionals about what our educators, students and public schools need, highlighted by the need to make educator pay, ranked 49th in the nation, more competitive and eliminating the budget stabilization (BS) factor by 2022.

In addition to addressing educator pay and eliminating the BS factor, educators called for legislators to support public schools and education professionals by:

  • Reducing educator workloads and large class sizes
  • Increasing mental health supports for educators and students
  • Prioritizing public schools over private corporations
  • Updating the educator evaluation and accountability systems
  • Prioritize all working families and union values

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Colorado Legislature once again cut public education to balance the state budget by more than doubling the BS factor to $1.18 billion. As public education funding continues to be cut, the needs of students and demands on educators continue to increase.

“CEA had a strong presence at the Capitol this session. In response to the new limitations placed on legislative engagement, our members took action, standing up for public education via emails, phone calls and social media activism,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, a high school counselor and president of CEA. “We emphasized how this current crisis was not a singular occurrence. Public education has been in crisis for over a decade. We cannot afford to continue balancing the state’s budget on the backs of students and educators.”

Determined to address the inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession, CEA focused its efforts on policies that would provide more money into public education and provide educators relief by:

  • Advocating for passage of an emergency tax relief bill
  • Prioritizing classrooms over corporations by closing corporate tax loopholes
  • Redirecting the money spent on high stakes standardized testing and the costly accountability system to support student needs

In the final hours of the 2020 session, House Bill 20-1420, Adjust Tax Expenditures For State Education Fund, passed but is nowhere near as impactful as originally introduced. The amended bill represents a watered-down version that will raise more than $100 million for public education versus the $750 million it was originally expected to generate over several years.

“It’s disheartening to have had several solutions that could have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in relief for Colorado students either killed or gutted,” Baca-Oehlert added. “If there was ever a time to find bold, creative solutions, it’s now. But the advocacy of our members did make a difference this legislative session and we will continue to advocate for funding solutions for the schools our students and educators deserve. We were encouraged that the legislature supported Coloradans by passing major bills including paid sick days, expanded unemployment insurance, whistleblower protections and a process to review the impact of COVID 19 on standardized testing, accountability, accreditation and evaluation.”

CEA thanks those legislators who were willing to bring forward bold and creative solutions this session. CEA members will continue fighting alongside public education supporters toward long term solutions, such as Initiative 271, that will provide much needed resources for Colorado students.

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