Students Learning Masks

Student Isabelle Espana visits with Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova at Newlon Elementary School Tuesday. Newlon is one of the sites providing remote learning supervision.

The State Board of Education Thursday approved their 2021-22 budget proposal to include a cut of $29 million. The cut is in line with a request from the Office of State Planning and Budgeting that most state agencies reduce their budgets by 10%. It's a move to respond to the state's economic downturn that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news release, the board of education said the proposed cuts will "minimize impact on literacy programs, prioritize support for struggling schools and protect the state’s most vulnerable students."

The cuts continue reductions from the 2020-21 budget made by the General Assembly in the computer science courses grant program and the local school fund purchasing grant programs. Those cuts become permanent with Thursday's decision, according to the budget summary. A cut of $250,000 to the school counselor corps is also in the 2021-22 budget, although that program was funded at $10 million in the 2020-21 budget and will continue with reduced funding.

Also on the chopping block: A cut of nearly $9 million to the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) cash grant program, about 10% of its total budget, and a cut of $3.2 million to the capital funding for charter schools, also at about 10% of its total funding in 2020-21.

The state will also suspend social studies assessment sampling in fourth and seven grades, which will save $1 million. That, however, does not eliminate those assessments; the program received a $26.1 million appropriation in 2020-21. 

A cut of $500,000, or about a third of its funding, is proposed for the concurrent enrollment expansion program, and a cut of $2 million, or 44% of its funding, is slated for the career development incentives grant program.

The Department of Education will take an operational cut of $885,000, largely in travel and conference costs, and a reduction of $972,000 for personnel within the department. Those savings will be realized through vacancies and "staff adjustments."

But not everything Thursday was about cutting.

The Board of Education approved a $335,000 grant for computer science teacher education, and $410,000 for the Imagination Library, a program approved by the General Assembly during the 2020 session. That program was developed by country music star Dolly Parton and provides "high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to eligible children" ages 0 to 5. Colorado now has 26 communities participating in the program.

The budget approved Thursday by the state board of education, if approved by the governor's budget office, will become part of Gov. Jared Polis' budget submittal to the Joint Budget Committee on November 1.

The state's public K-12 education budget took a hit of $577 million in general funds for 2020-21. That increased the budget stabilization factor, the debt owed to K-12 education, to $1.15 billion. A ballot measure in November, Proposition EE, if approved by voters, would initially backfill some of the cuts to K-12; future dollars would fund early childhood and preschool education.

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