School Finance 101



Colorado School Funding Model

Schools in Colorado are funded from two sources:

  • State funding formula (accounts for some property taxes and state funding and is determined by the state legislature each year)
  • Local revenue (Mill Levy Overrides, property taxes and vehicle registration fees)

State funds are allocated to school districts based on student enrollment as of October 1 each year. Funding begins at $6,370 per student and increases for factors based on student situations including poverty, size of the district and cost of living.

The national average is about $11,000 per student and Colorado currently ranks 40th in the country in per pupil funding for education. 

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Laws in Colorado that have impacted school funding in the last 35 years:

  • Gallagher Amendment (requires that the residential and corporate tax rates be at a 45%/55% split respectively. Property tax rates are adjusted when this proportion gets out of balance)
  • TABOR, Taxpayers Bill of Rights (sets limits on the amount of revenue that can be collected, imposed a limit on property taxes and eliminated ability of local elected officials to increase property assessment rates)
  • Amendment 23 (established base per pupil funding for K12 education to be increased at least by rate of inflation)


During the 2009 recession, the state legislature decided it could not fund the cost of inflation for all school funding. They created the "Negative Factor" to stabilize the state budget, which reduced revenue for schools. 

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Funding in PSD

PSD receives about $7,050 per student, which is the lowest amount possible in the state funding formula. The district also receives money from property taxes in the form of voter-approved mill levy overrides.

PSD's 2015-2016 Fiscal Transparency chart shows money allocation.

This money makes up the general fund, with 85% going to the schools as follows:

  • 50 cents of every dollar is given directly to the schools in the form of Student Based Budgeting. Schools receive an allocation for every student enrolled at their school. The principal, in collaboration with staff, students and parents, decides how to use this money to pay for teachers, classified staff, programs, supplies and other school operations.
  • 35 cents of every dollar supports essential school-based services including principals and assistant principals, alternative programs such as Centennial High School, special education, classroom technology, home-to-school transportation, security, custodians, ground workers and utilities.

Remaining dollars are spent on:

  • 13 cents of every dollar funds central services including departments like finance, HR, athletics, curriculum, mental health, technology, professional development, maintenance and wellness.
  • 2 cents of every dollar supports central administrators