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A Second Look at K-12 Cash: Updating the Facts about Per-Pupil Spending in Colorado

IB-2008-B (June 2008)
Author: Benjamin DeGrow

PDF of full Issue Backgrounder
Scribd version of full Issue Backgrounder


In March 2006, the Independence Institute published an issue backgrounder to provide needed context to claims made about the state of K-12 education funding in Colorado. Among the observations in the report were as follows:

  • A comprehensive analysis of relevant research overwhelmingly showed no link between education spending and student performance, with several studies even showing a negative relationship
  • From 1992 to 2003, 27 of 42 states with available testing data increased per-pupil spending more than Colorado: of the 27 states, only Delaware also showed greater gains than Colorado in 4th-grade reading scores
  • Colorado’s real growth in total per-pupil expenditures outpaced most states in the 1970s but grew less quickly than most states in the 1980s and 1990s, but both Colorado and the nation roughly doubled per-pupil spending between 1970 and 2000

Since the initial release of “Counting the Cash,” updated statistical reports have added to the clarifying picture of education funding in Colorado. In terms of total per-pupil spending, which includes all costs related to elementary and secondary education, Colorado has grown at a pace close to the national average and retains its 26th ranking. Colorado’s current per-pupil spending—which excludes costs for capital construction and debt financing—ranks higher by one measure and lower by two others. The gap has grown between the highest and lowest rankings (see table 1).