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2015 Funding for the Cherry Creek School District

"This financial situation has significantly altered the quality of educational programing we are able to provide the students of the district, and, in our judgment, is unsustainable."

~ letter to legislators from CCSD Board of Education President Jim O'Brien and Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull  


The Cherry Creek School District Board of Education on Monday, April 14, 2015 passed a resolution calling on Colorado lawmakers to eliminate cuts to public education under the "negative factor."

"We as a community cannot stand idly by and allow this absence of legislative action to continue when it comes to the impact that it's having on our students," Board Member Claudine McDonald said.  "Being 43rd in the country in our spending for education is simply not acceptable. We must tell the legislature that we feel the pain."

The Legislature has withheld more than $1 billion statewide and about $224 million over the last four years from Cherry Creek students alone, despite the voter-approved Amendment 23.

Amendment 23 required the state to increase base funding to school districts by growth and the rate of inflation each year. The constitutional amendment also outlined a funding formula for variables such as school district size, local cost of living, and the number of "at-risk" kids (eligible for free lunch) in a district.

The Legislature later reinterpreted Amendment 23 to mean that it only covered the base funding and that they were not required to fund the variables, now known as the negative factor.

"Receiving $7,026 per pupil from the State of Colorado to educate our students is no longer acceptable and does not provide the type of education funding that students now need to compete on a global level," board member Dave Willman said.

Last year, the Legislature agreed to pay down the negative factor by $110 million. This year, lawmakers are offering an additional $25 million for all schools statewide. That equals only $1.5 million for Cherry Creek neighborhood schools.

"At the same time, the Legislature has passed multiple and significant reforms without corresponding funding for these reform efforts," Board President Jim O' Brien said. "As the resolution notes, the cost to the Cherry Creek School District for these unfunded mandates is approximately $51 million."

"Whereas, since state revenues are increasing and the Legislature has discussed the replenishing of cash funds, the Legislature must make it a priority to return to a sensible and constitutional system of school finance, consistent with the mandate of Amendment 23" the resolution states.

With the last day of the session on May 6, 2015 rapidly approaching, legislators need to hear parents' voices. Download a list of legislators serving the Cherry Creek School District and call them today. 


​"We ask that you call your state legislators and tell them that your neighborhood schools belong to you. Let them know that we, and they, have a moral obligation to provide adequate resources so that each child has access to the best possible educational opportunities we can provide.”


~ Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull


 Colorado K-12 Funding vs. National Average

 Source: Colorado School Finance Project

Colorado Superintendents' Position Statement on School Funding

November 14, 2014


Endorsed by 174 Colorado superintendents representing more than 92% of the public school students in our state, this statement communicates our collective position on the foundational issue of public school funding. 

To meet the expectations that have been set forth for Colorado's schools and students, we must receive adequate funding to carry out this important work. We see both short- and long-term challenges to adequately funding Colorado's schools. This position statement addresses both short- and long-term aspects of these challenges.

Short-term challenges:

We are appreciative of the efforts last year to begin restoring school funding to constitutionally directed levels. But in spite of this effort, significant challenges remain as last year's $110 million allocation represents only a little over 10% of what is being withheld from schools annually through the negative factor.

We are also appreciative of the increased level of school funding reflected in Governor Hickenlooper's FY

2015-16 State Budget Request. However, we believe there is an opportunity to make even greater investments in public school funding during the 2015 legislative session. To this end:

1. We propose that in addition to the funding outlined in the Governor's 2015-16 State Budget Request,

the State provide:

  • $50 million to school districts as a per-pupil allocation based on poverty levels as defined by the number of students eligible for either free or reduced-price school meals, and
  • $20 million as a per-pupil allocation to districts defined as "small rural" school districts by the Rural Education Council (2013).

2. We further propose that decisions about the specific allocations and uses of the aforementioned funds, as well as funds included in the Governor's State Budget Request, should be made by local boards of education and not be directed by policymakers at the state level. More specifically, the legislature should avoid requiring expenditure of any of these funds toward specific programs, reforms, mandates, or other earmarks.

Long-term challenges:

While we hold that the short-term steps outlined above will provide some necessary relief for distressed

Colorado schools, the more chronic problem of a structurally flawed system of financing Colorado schools still exists.

As such, we encourage, support, and are ready to assist Colorado's policymakers in the work of identifying solutions to the chronic funding dilemmas imposed by the myriad statutory and constitutional conflicts that currently exist in our state. In absence of this work and a resulting stable, reasonable, and adequate funding of schools in Colorado, we will continue to fall short of the excellent and globally competitive education system our students deserve.

 Key Points

  • Between 2008 and 2012, CCSD had to reduce its budget by about 9 percent, or $39.7 million. This resulted in program cuts, deferral of maintenance, and the loss of about 340 full-time positions.
  • Currently, the legislature has access to more than $1 billion in the state's Education Fund. Superintendents from around the state have joined together to ask the legislature to allocate $275 million of recurring funds to public schools, in addition to the governor's proposed increase.
  • CCSD has lost more than $224 million in state aid over the last four years due to what's called the "negative factor," the loss of funds intended to provide school districts with extra support for things like infrastructure costs for small districts or high levels of at-risk students.
  • We are asking the legislature to restore the dollars they have failed to provide to schools as required by Amendment 23, and let the Cherry Creek School District decide how use the funds to restore those things they lost during the Great Recession.
  • Locally elected school boards and their chosen leaders are the best experts of what is best for students, not politicians or political special interest groups.


What is the Negative Factor?

Amendment 23, the citizen's ballot initiative passed in 2000, mandates that "base" per pupil funding increase each year by the rate of inflation. To determine how much each district will receive under the School Finance Act, that "base" is run through a complex formula that includes variables such as school district size, local cost-of-living, and the number of "at-risk" kids (eligible for free lunch) in a district.

These variables are called "factors" and they substantially increase average per pupil funding received by school districts to reflect the very different costs they experience. The factors exist to address the increased per pupil costs that result when, for instance, a high percentage of pupils are from at-risk populations or when the necessary costs of running a school and hiring staff are divided among a small student population in a rural district.

In 2009, the legislature reinterpreted Amendment 23 to mean that only the base amount was covered by the mandatory increases — not the factors.  Under this interpretation, the legislature could (and did) cut total spending from one year to the next and claim compliance with Amendment 23 — despite voter intent to increase funding.

Starting in 2009, in order to make across-the-board cuts from all districts, the legislature added a new "budget stabilization" or "negative factor" to the School Finance Act formula. In effect, the legislature now decides how much it wants to spend on school finance, and then adjusts the negative factor to meet that funding target.

Source: Great Education Colorado

 Legislator's Town Hall Meetings

  • First Saturdays , 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. - with Sen. Todd, Sen. Carroll, Rep. Ryden and Rep. Buckner
    Smoky Hill Library, 5430 S. Biscay Circle, Centennial, CO 80015
  • First Mondays,  7-8 a.m. – with Rep. Ryden and Rep. Fields
    Mimi’s Restaurant, 205 S. Abilene St.,  Aurora, CO 80012
  • Second Tuesdays, 6-7 p.m. - with Rep. May and Rep. Fields
    Children’s Hospital , 13123 E. 6th Ave.,  Aurora, CO 80045
  • Third Wednesday,  6:30 – 8:30 p.m. – with Sen. Todd, Sen. Newel and Rep. Melton.
    Heather Gardens Clubhouse, 2888 S. Heather Gardens Way, Aurora, CO 80014
  • Third Thursdays, 7 - 8:30 p.m., with Sen. Carroll, Rep. Ryden, Rep. Fields, Rep. Buckner and Rep. Melton
    Community College of Aurora Rotunda
    16000 Centertech Pkwy
    Aurora, CO 80011

Download a list of legislative contacts

​"For our legislators, the inconvenient truth in the constitution is that local school boards are responsible for the budget of local school districts."

~ Cherry Creek School District Board of Education President Jim O'Brien


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