Colorado lawmakers tasked with crafting a balanced budget cut more than 15% from the state’s $4.6 billion K-12 education budget Thursday afternoon.
At the same time, Colorado schools this week received a $510 million infusion of federal coronavirus relief money from Gov. Jared Polis. That’s in addition to $121 million in federal assistance earmarked for schools.
These one-time funds must be used before the end of the calendar year for purposes related to the pandemic, but they will soften the immediate blow of state budget cuts. Nonetheless, many school districts are concerned state money won’t be restored for years to come, as this is likely to be the first of several difficult budget cycles.
“When we were facing a 25% reduction to the general fund, a quarter of the state budget, it’s pretty incredible that we did what we set out to do and that was to minimize the impact,” said state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat and member of the Joint Budget Committee.
The six-member budget committee was tasked with filling a $3.3 billion budget hole. Widespread job losses and business closures related to the coronavirus are expected to decimate tax revenues. The cut to K-12 education was their final act of an agonizing two weeks that left no department untouched and brought both staff members and legislators to the brink of tears more than once.
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