Young school teacher helping boy with study on laptop in classroom

K-12 funding in Colorado is at an all-time high, but still more than one-third of students entering higher education are ill-prepared.

Moreover, the way the state allocates tax dollars means some wealthier districts get more state dollars than schools in poorer areas.

Teachers in metro Denver earned an average of $56,621 in 2017, which is a 39% advantage over the average of $38,157 earned by teachers in southeast Colorado. Teacher turnover, however, remains among the lowest of any profession in the state: 17% compared to 48%.

Those are among the findings in a study released Wednesday called “Dollars and Data: A Look at K-12 Education Funding in Colorado” by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, the coalition of business leaders and organizations that examine the state's economic challenges.

The study's authors — Dr. Brenda Bausch Dickhoner, CSPR's education fellow, and Chris Brown, the think tank's director of policy and research — examined trends from a decade on teach pay and funding differences across the state.

“Without a quality education, opportunity is stifled, employers can’t hire an adequate workforce, and our economy suffers," Kristin Strohm, the roundtable's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, in communities across Colorado, public schools are failing to provide the kind of quality education that prepares students to be productive members of the workforce.”

To read the full study, click here.

The report offers a foundation for a debate on educational funding issues.

“We hope this study fills a significant gap in the debate on public education,” Dickhoner said in a statement Wednesday. “By providing a clear picture of the facts, we have set the stage for an honest conversation about how we as a state can improve our education system.”

The study notes that from 2007 to 2017, the share of spending on pay for instructional staff in Colorado declined 3.5 percentage points, while spending on benefits increased by 1.5% as the state increased funding as the Public Employees Retirement Association faced a dire shortfall.

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