DENVER (AP) – Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing state lawmakers slash public school funding by $375 million to help come to grips with an estimated $1 billion budget gap that’s looming as federal stimulus money dries up and the economy continues to lag.

The budget proposal that the new governor unveiled at the Capitol on Tuesday also includes a $125 million cut for state colleges and universities compared to this year and cutting about 250 state jobs, including 149 at the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in Las Animas, which would be closed. Hickenlooper is also recommending the closure of Bonny Lake State Park and scaling back services at three other parks — Sweitzer, Harvey Gap and Paonia.

Hickenlooper also wants to increase the state’s reserve fund from 2 percent to 4 percent of the budget, enough to keep the state operating for about 14 days, in case revenues continue to drop or demand for state services like Medicaid rises more than expected. That’s about an extra $100 million that might have otherwise gone to schools.

The proposal is a first step in coming up with a spending plan for the budget year that begins in July. State lawmakers still must come up with a plan of their own and pass it before adjourning in May, sending it to Hickenlooper for approval.

Hickenlooper said the cuts, especially to schools, were difficult but the state has no choice but to live within its means. He said schools account for about 40 percent of the state’s budget and when deep cuts are needed, it’s impossible to avoid cutting them.

“The four letter word today is math and we have structural imbalance to the budget,” he said after presenting the proposal to members of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee.

The proposed school cuts follow a $260 million reduction for kindergarten through 12th grade this year.

Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said the combined 14 percent reduction would reach into the classroom, forcing districts to consider teacher layoffs, larger classes and shorter school weeks. She estimated that more teachers and other school workers would lose their jobs than the 250 in job cuts proposed for state workers. However, with stimulus money running out and state funds already maxed out by the recession, she acknowledged that cuts for schools were inevitable.

Cindy Stevensen, the Superintendent for Jefferson County Schools said the budget cut is scary.

“They’re devastating. We understand there are not a lot of choices for the governor and the state,we do get that. however when you start talking about 6-year-olds it’s pretty scary,” Stevensen said.

Urschel said Congress passed funding to help avert wide-scale layoffs this school year but she doesn’t expect any more help to come from Washington.

Coloradans need to start a serious conversation about raising revenue to restore school funding, said Beverly Ingle, president of the Colorado Education Association, a teachers’ union.

“The quality of education today will largely drive the quality of the Colorado economy and the size of our tax base in the future,” Ingle said.

Republican lawmakers praised Hickenlooper for presenting what they said was an honest assessment of the state’s budget problems. Some Democrats, though, and others beyond the Capitol hinted at whether it was time to start looking at whether the state needs to take in more revenue to pay for the services people expect.

Colorado AFL-CIO executive director Mike Cerbo, a former Democratic state lawmaker, said elected officials need to start talking about stabilizing funding for schools and state services as well as improving the economy.

“If we cannot have this conversation, then the people of Colorado can expect many more days like today in the years ahead,” he said.

Hickenlooper, a former restaurateur, said he didn’t think there was any appetite for raising taxes in the middle of the recession. He said lawmakers should instead do everything they can to make Colorado more business friendly, which he said would ultimately help the state’s economy improve and bring in more revenue. However, he did leave the door open to talking about Colorado’s patchwork of constitutional amendments, which both limit taxes, mandate spending increases and push more of the local tax burden on businesses.

Hickenlooper, like former Gov. Bill Ritter, is using a new legal interpretation of Amendment 23 — which requires school spending to increase — to reduce overall funding for schools by chipping away at extra funding the state provides for things like cost-of-living differences.

Hickenlooper’s proposal also assumes the tax measures passed under Ritter will remain in place. They include requiring online retailers to remind Coloradans to pay sales tax on their purchases, a measure that is being challenged in court.

Among the money set to disappear in the new budget year is $363.6 million in federal stimulus funding used for Medicaid and $89.2 million in stimulus funds for higher education.

Demand for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled, has surged as the economy has suffered. Budget analysts predicted that over 600,000 Coloradans will rely on it by the next budget year, up from 275,000 a decade ago.

– By Colleen Slevin, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (27)
  1. Pam Schock says:

    You have got to be kidding me. My daughter is a public school teacher and the cuts to the Public Schools have been enough. They barely have enough to make ends meet in their classrooms on top of being so underpaid. Hickenlooper wouldn’t know what is going on in the public schools because I would bet his kiddos aren’t in the public sector………oh the chosen children

  2. Bruce says:

    Well Pam, you would be wrong, Hicks kiddos are in public school. If we stop paying to educate brats here illegally, we would have more money to spend on students who are legal residents. Don’t blame Hick, blame Obama.

      1. Twila Shyrock says:


      2. Rita says:

        Really? After 2 1/2 years or so of Obama and we are still playing the blame game on Bush. Get a gripe. If they really need to cut the budget stop the English as a second language program, don’t allow illegals to attend public school if they are allowed they need to pay a tuition to the school these illegals are attending. My daughter attends public school and the ESL students are the ones bringing the rest of the group down.

  3. Aralee says:

    Bruce, I have to object to the word “brats”, even though I whole-heartedly agree that illegal immigrants do not belong in this country, having grown up in AZ and seeing what it does first-hand. I have two kids in public school, so not happy about this, but the money HAS to come from somewhere. Some programs need to be cut, but I think the target needs to be more along the lines of special interests, rather than education.

  4. Aralee says:

    Oh, and as a follow up…where I live we now print all of our kids papers out at home, the kids have to pay for any copies they make at school, we pay for transportation for our kids, the costs of lunches increased by 40% for this year, etc…. Programs such as Theatre have to pay for themselves and sports programs are they only programs being enlarged because they pay for themselves. How much more gets cut?

  5. martha washington says:

    If the cuts were left up to us I imagine a lot of administrative employees would be eliminated instead of teachers and supplies. It’s ridiculous to think there isn’t enough $$ to cover teachers/supplies. It’s because the money is mismanaged by unions & administrators. They are think they are entitled to OUR money-makes me sick.

  6. brian says:

    How’s that CHANGE thing going? HOPE this stops.

  7. diane says:

    There has to be other places to cut. The children are our future. We need children to get the best education they can. Why couldn’t some the money coming in from the gamboling or lottery go to education.

  8. Sheila Ritter says:

    Hmm, I guess this is going to lead to more people homeschooling their children. It costs the government NOTHING but the money they would have gotten from the FEDERAL government in subsidies. How about, instead of cutting the SCHOOL budget, we cut the governments income?? I bet if the big shots in the capital would take a 30% paycut, they would be able to save a few thousand jobs AND make our classrooms a bit better!

  9. Brian says:

    Stop giving all our money away to illegals and pay cuts across the board for elected officials, should do the job. Don’t take the money from our kids.

  10. Bdawg says:

    I know of at least (3) Denver Schools sitting vacant including Byers Jr. High on Pearl St. that are decaying and have no plans for renivation. Seems to me the school district would be better off selling these properties to developer s and using that money toward funding of rthe funtioning schools.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I am a teacher by trade, currently staying home with my children. Keeping class sizes down and staff moral up is very important to our children’s education. While I was shocked and disappointed with the news of the cutbacks, I think perhaps this will give schools an opportunity to really evaluate where they are spending their money. Our school has two secretaries, one for the principal and one for the school…is that really necessary? We also have an ‘instructional coach’…what is that? Without knowing the purpose of that position it’s difficult to judge, but I think I’d rather have more means for supplies and lower class sizes. It’s really a shame that we are in this situation. The children deserve more from us.

    1. jan says:

      very good comment Jennifer our whole system is top heavy while the back bone of the whole systems is suffering and our kids what will the future hold for them?

  12. Bushbeater says:

    So instead of cutting welfare payments, housing subsidies, food stamps, medical care, and education to illegal immigrants, the governor is going to reduce benefits to the people who are here in Colorado legally! Does that make sense?

    1. EPIC FAIL says:

      It does to Governor Sanctuary.

  13. Cricket says:

    If politicians had some brains they’d realize that taking money away from schools is detrimental to the kids learning skills that this country needs it’s people to have. I can see even more kids falling behind in test scores with larger class sizes.

  14. jan says:

    as a tax payer this is very upsetting! they need to make the cuts from the top
    there is no reason the salary’s are what they are when our ecconomy is the way it is. why is the administrative offices so top heavy?
    teachers make very little money as it is, what about the kids with disabilities? or are you going to cuts those funds too?
    how about gaining control over the illegals? they get medicaid, food stamps, housing, while the americans are denied of any help

  15. Pete says:

    What happened to all that stimulus money? Also I thought that Democrats were education friendly and cared about the children. Guess not.

  16. kathy says:

    surprisingly enough a majority of the illigal immigrants are the ones who are working at a low wage, and the business owners are the ones who are getting the big tax breaks, you know the business people who are making millions, but Hick doesn’t want to raise their taxes, he will give them tax breaks, and how many companies left Denver when he was Mayor, MAAAAAAAny left denver and went to Aurora and Jeffco, All you rightous people don’t want to admit our citizzens don’t want to work for minimum wage they wnt the millions, so don’t put all the blame on the illigal immigrants, blame our elected officials who have sqaundered our monies by going on big trips and giving jobs to their relatives,and scratching the backs of their cronies by giving them big tax breaks, you must realize that the big wigs take care of the big wigs, not the little guy, who works their butts off just to make ends meet, Yes put the blame on Hick.

    1. John says:

      So in your world uneducated illegal people should expect hard working successful people to pay for them is that right?
      If that is the case lets just become a socialist county rightr now.
      I have no obligation to pay for people who don’t even belong here, i have all i can do to pay my share of things now.
      When it gets to the point all the money i make goes to someone else what sense does it make for me to work?
      Hell with it I will go fishing and you can pay for me too!

  17. Raybo says:

    I think he should raise everyones taxes they pay by the 2% less FICA taxes everyone that the FEDS gave us. Quit cutting Education!! Do we really want to be know as the stupidest state in the US. Let’s leave that to the states in the south i.e Mississippi and Louisiana!!!!!!

  18. John says:

    No matter how you want to defend illegal immigrants, whether they are good people or bad people we simply cannot afford to keep paying for them.
    If all the bleeding hearts would accept this fact we would not be having this problem.’
    In The meantime, keep up the obviously stupid debate over the subject just realize nothing will change this way.
    We as a state or country cannot to support the entire world whether we like them or not.
    This is going to get a lot worse, trust me.
    You can see it coming, if not you better go back to reality school folks.

  19. kathy says:

    we are on the low side of education, what I believe we are # 49 in funding and you can tell, also if parents would become accountable for the way their children act at school, and give the educators the right to discipline their kids we would be on the up swing, but it so happens that no matter what class you are in upper or lower, nobody wants their kid disciplined, it is the money but more that the kids know that their parents will raise hell if their kid is disciplined., and raybo read you r first sentence, what are you trying to say?, whoops or did you get educated in MISS., Or La.

  20. Dave says:

    Kids need their education and mail order and internet companies need to collect sales tax from the state they make the sale. We watched the news last night about the school cut backs of $497 annually per student. These cut backs would not have to be so big if Colorado would collect sales tax from mail order and internet giants. Since the internet shopping has been growing rapidly and more brick and mortar stores going out of business the sales tax collected is shrinking compared to the sales being made. Mail order and Internet has changed the way we do our shopping so the sales tax has to change accordingly. It’s the local businesses in our communities that will support the schools and fundraisers not mail order and internet giants in other states. Thank you

  21. Rita says:

    And yet we are offering in state tuition to illegals who reside in Colorado and want to attend college in Colorado. What is wrong with this picture? So the nation as whole our children are not competitive with the rest of the world. I wonder why? Is it because we are allowing illegals an education at the expense of our children?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s