How do we know schools are using their funding wisely and not being wasteful?

I am a big supporter of educational funding but I also appreciate wise spending of the money we do have. It seems that schools spend money on things that are not needed, such as fancy jackets for kids in a sports team who go to state. One of the large ways money is wasted is with graduation location rentals. When I graduated high school we held the ceremony at the school stadium. Why are our school districts now throwing away money on a fancy location for a graduation event?! Or for a fancy prom location? Before we ask tax payers to contribute more (yes I believe this is needed) we need to show that our schools are using their funding wisely and can be trusted to not be wasteful with additional funds.

School district transparency websites provide details to the public on how public funds are spent in public schools. One can search any Colorado school district website to obtain detailed information. In addition, as Colorado is a local control state, each school district sets its budget with community and parent engagement. It is also important to note that school districts many times have community sponsors, foundation support or donations that go to school districts to cover the costs of community activities such as a graduation. Fees, grants and fundraising vary by school district and are a significant source of revenue for many school districts. Lastly, community values help shape and determine what the expectations are for various celebrations and recognitions.

The Fiscal Impact Statement for this initiative provides details on the reporting requirements and distribution of new revenue.

Reporting requirements. Within five years of when the money is first appropriated from the fund, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) must contract for a study that includes how money from the fund was spent, and determine best practices for continuous improvement in student achievement. In addition, school districts that receive money from the fund must make certain information available on its website, including its mission, and current budget, audit, uniform improvement plan, and student achievement scores.

Education spending requirements. Beginning in FY 2019-20 and until a new public school finance law that meets certain criteria is enacted by the General Assembly, money in the fund must be used to:

  • increase the statewide base per pupil funding for P-12 public education to $7,300;
  • increase state funding for the following programs by at least the following specified amounts over FY 2018-19 levels:
    • " special education by $120 million;
    • " gifted and talented programs by $10 million;
    • " English language proficiency programs by $20 million; and
    • " preschool funding by $10 million;

The above increases are to be adjusted for inflation each year beginning in FY 2020-21.

In addition, the measure expands the number of kindergarten and at-risk students that receive funding through the state's P-12 funding formula. Specifically, the measure requires that:

  • at-risk funding include students qualifying for reduced price lunch; and
  • full day kindergarten funding be increased from 0.58 percent to 1.0 per full time equivalent student.