Colorado schools saw big budget cuts after the Great Recession. But other states had it worse.

Colorado schools weathered the Great Recession better than most other states, a new report finds.

Aurora Public Schools teacher Shawn E. Bailey leads a classroom at Vista Peak Exploratory in 2014. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)
Aurora Public Schools teacher Shawn E. Bailey leads a classroom at Vista Peak Exploratory in 2014. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)
Aurora Public Schools teacher Shawn E. Bailey leads a classroom at Vista Peak Exploratory in 2014. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)

By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat  

Colorado schools weathered the Great Recession better than most other states, a new report finds.

These two graphics from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, tell the story.

First, 28 other states including Nevada, Texas and — especially — Arizona, cut more per student in the years following the Great Recession than Colorado.


A few reasons why this could be the case:Colorado’s economy didn’t take as great of

  1. Colorado’s economy didn’t take as great of hit during the recession.
  2. Colorado’s lawmakers don’t have as much flexibility when it comes school funding given Amendment 23, which requires the state to increase funding for classrooms to keep up with inflation.
  3. You don’t have that much to cut when you’re already considered one of the state’s that funds its schools the least.

Second, Colorado is one of only 24 states to return to or exceed pre-recession funding when adjusted for inflation.


Colorado — barely — joins states like Nebraska, Illinois and Massachusetts, which are now funding students at a greater level than before the recession.

But there are a couple of caveats to this news.

While we know these states are funding schools at an equal or greater rate than before the recession, there are two crucial funding streams that are either down or unknown. First, federal spending on schools is down. And second, there isn’t a clear picture on local funding revenue from property taxes.

There is also the specter of budget cuts and another recession.

As The Denver Post reported, unless the funding forecast radically changes, schools should expect a mid-year budget cut.

And Michael Leachman, one of the authors of the center’s report, told reporters that based on historical precedent, the U.S. economy is overdue for a recession.

“We’re working on borrowed time,” he said. “The likelihood of a recession is coming sooner, rather than later.”

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.