Public education in Colorado
Energy • Environment • Fracking • Public education • Higher education • School choice • Charter schools • Public pensions • State budget and finances • Taxes • Voting • Ballot access • Redistricting
- 1 State agencies
- 2 Regional comparison
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Academic performance
- 5 Educational choice options
- 6 Education funding and expenditures
- 7 Organizations
- 8 Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- 9 Transparency
- 10 Education ballot measures
- 11 Studies and reports
- 12 See also
- 13 External links
- 14 Additional reading
- 15 References
Colorado school districts
List of school districts in Colorado
Public education in Colorado
School board elections portal
|“||The mission of the Colorado Department of Education is to ensure that all students are prepared for success in society, work, and life by providing excellent leadership, service, and support to schools, districts, and communities across the state.||”|
The Commissioner of Education the Department of Education's executive officer. The Commissioner of Education is appointed by the Colorado State Board of Education. Robert Hammond currently serves in this role.
The Colorado Board of Education is "charged by the Colorado Constitution with the general supervision of the public schools." The board's seven members are elected from each of the state's congressional districts. The Commissioner of Education serves as a non-voting member of the board.
Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Colorado State Board of Education adopted the standards on August 2, 2010. Full implementation was set to be achieved in the 2013-2014 academic year.
- See also: General comparison table for education statistics in the 50 states
- See also: Education spending per pupil in all 50 states
The following chart shows how Colorado compares to three neighboring states with respect to number of students, schools, the number of teachers per pupil, and the number of administrators per pupil. Further comparisons between these states with respect to performance and financial information are given in other sections of this page.
|State||Schools||Districts||Students||Teachers||Teacher/pupil ratio||Administrator/pupil ratio||Per pupil spending|
| Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.|
National Center for Education Statistics, Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12
The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Colorado as reported in the Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.
|Demographic information for Colorado's K-12 public school system|
|Ethnicity||Students||State Percentage||United States Percentage**|
|Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. Students||1,817||0.21%||0.42%|
|Two or more||26,073||3.05%||2.54%|
|**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.|
Enrollments by region type
A plurality of students in Colorado attend city schools. More than 65 percent of the state's students attend city or suburban schools, compared to approximately 35 percent who attend rural or town schools.
|Student distribution by region type, 2011 - 2012 (as percents)|
|State||City schools||Suburban schools||Town schools||Rural schools|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD) (timed out)|
- See also: NAEP scores by state
The National Center for Education Statistics provides state-by-state data on student achievement levels in mathematics and reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Compared to three neighboring states (New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming), Colorado's fourth and eighth grade students fared the best in both mathematics and reading.
|Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013|
|Math - Grade 4||Math - Grade 8||Reading - Grade 4||Reading - Grade 8|
|Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014|
|NAEP assessment data for all students 2012-2013|
Graduation, ACT and SAT scores
|Comparison table for graduation rates and test scores*|
|State||Graduation rate, 2012||Average ACT Composite, 2012||Average SAT Composite, 2013|
|Percent||Quintile ranking**||Score||Participation rate||Score||Participation rate|
| *Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Rate (except for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, which did not report “Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate,” but instead used their own method of calculation).|
**Graduation rates for states in the first quintile ranked in the top 20 percent nationally. Similarly, graduation rates for states in the fifth quintile ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express
- See also: Public high school dropout rates by state for a full comparison of dropout rates by group in all states
The high school event dropout rate indicates the proportion of students who were enrolled at some time during the school year and were expected to be enrolled in grades 9–12 in the following school year but were not enrolled by October 1 of the following school year. Students who have graduated, transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. The average public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both SY 2010–11 and SY 2011–12. The event dropout rate for Colorado was higher than the national average at 5.1 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, and 4.9 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Educational choice options
- See also: School choice in Colorado
School choice options in Colorado include: charter schools, a limited, location-specific voucher program, open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 6.50 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Education funding and expenditures
- See also: Colorado state budget and finances
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the state spent approximately 25.3 percent of its fiscal year 2012 budget on elementary and secondary education. As a share of the budget, this is down 5.7 percentage points, or 18.4 percent, from fiscal year 2008, when the state spent 31.0 percent of its budget on elementary and secondary education.
|Comparison of financial figures for school systems|
|State||Percent of budget (2012)||Per pupil spending (2011)||Revenue sources (2011)|
|Percent federal funds||Percent state funds||Percent local funds|
| Sources: NASBO, "State Expenditure Report," Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures |
U.S. Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports," issued May 2013
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system revenues in Colorado totaled approximately $8.8 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including revenue sources, for Colorado and surrounding states.
|Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Federal revenue||State revenue||Local revenue||Total revenue|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics|
|Public school revenues by source, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system expenditures in Colorado totaled approximately $8.7 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including expenditure types, for Colorado and surrounding states.
|Expenditures by type, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Current expenditures**||Capital outlay||Other***||Total expenditures|
| **Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.|
***Includes payments to state and local governments, payments to private schools, interest on school system indebtedness, and nonelementary-secondary expenditures, such as adult education and community services expenditures.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
|Public school expenditures, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average national salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has declined by 1.3 percent from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. During the same period in Colorado, the average salary decreased by 4.4 percent.
|Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**)|
|**"Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state."|
In 2012 the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now assessed the power and influence of state teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their rankings were based on 37 different variables in five broad areas, including: resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies and perceived influence. Colorado ranked 35th overall, or "weak," which was in the fourth of five tiers.
The main unions related to the Colorado school system are the Colorado Education Association (CEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), and the Colorado Federation of Teachers. CEA is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period CEA had: $10.5 million in total revenue, $10.1 million in total expenses and $7.9 million in total assets. For the same period, the Colorado Federation of Teachers had: $213,403 in total revenue, $221,663 in total expenses and $157,369 in total assets.
List of local Colorado school unions:
- Colorado Education Association
- Colorado Federation of Teachers
- Denver Classroom Teachers Association
- Colorado Springs Education Association
- Boulder Valley Education Association
- Pueblo Education Association
- Denver Federation of Teachers
- Cherry Creek Education Association
- Thompson Education Association
- Aurora Education Association
- See also: Colorado government sector lobbying
The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Colorado Association of School Boards. Below is a list of major Colorado education government sector lobbying organizations:
- Colorado Association of School Executives
- Jefferson County Education Association
- Public Educators Advocating for Kids
On June 4, 2009, Governor Ritter signed Colorado House Bill 1288, the "Colorado Taxpayer Transparency Act," into law. HB 1288 mandated the creation of an online spending database by no later than January 2010.
Education ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked 32 statewide ballot measures relating to education.
- Colorado Control of Public Schools, Measure 15 (1912)
- Colorado Department of Education Reorganization, Measure 1 (1948)
- Colorado Education Funding and TABOR Rebates, Initiative 59 (2008)
- Colorado Education Standards and Funding Reform, Initiative 6 (1992)
- Colorado Elected State Board of Education, Measure 2 (1930)
- Colorado Elected State Board of Education, Measure 6 (1928)
- Colorado English Language Education, Initiative 31 (2002)
- Colorado Examination of Teachers, Measure 21 (1912)
- Colorado Excess State Revenues for Math and Science Grants, Referendum F (2000)
- Colorado Funding for Public Schools, Initiative 23 (2000)
- Colorado Horse Racetrack Limited Gaming Proceeds for K-12 Education, Amendment 68 (2014)
- Colorado Income Tax Credit for Education, Initiative 17 (1998)
- Colorado Institutions of Higher Education, Referendum 5 (1910)
- Colorado Investing Public School Funds, Measure 7 (1916)
- Colorado Location and Control of Higher Education Institutions, Measure 7 (1922)
- Colorado Oil and Natural Gas Severance Taxes, Initiative 58 (2008)
- Colorado One-Mill Levy for State Education Institutions, Measure 7 (1920)
- Colorado Parental Rights, Initiative 17 (1996)
- Colorado Prohibit Bussing to Schools Based on Race, Measure 8 (1974)
- Colorado Public School Funding Initiative (2014)
- Colorado Required Distances from Schools in Certain Casino Gambling Jurisdictions Amendment (2014)
- Colorado School Board Open Meetings, Proposition 104 (2014)
- Colorado School District Spending Requirements, Initiative 39 (2006)
- Colorado School District Spending Requirements, Referendum J (2006)
- Colorado State Trust Lands, Initiative 16 (1996)
- Colorado Student Loan Program, Measure 2 (1972)
- Colorado Tax Increase for Education, Amendment 66 (2013)
- Colorado Tax Limits, Measure 12 (1972)
- Colorado Teachers' Summer Normal School, Measure 26 (1912)
- Colorado University of Colorado Board of Regents, Measure 4 (1972)
- Colorado Voting on County Superintendent of Schools, Measure 2 (1964)
- Colorado Vouchers for Education, Initiative 7 (1992)
Studies and reports
State Budget Solutions education study
State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009 to 2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study showed that the states which spent the most did not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor did they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. The full report can be accessed here.
Quality Counts 2014
- See also: Quality Counts 2014 Report
Education Week, an organization that reports on many education issues throughout the country, began using an evaluation system in 1997 to grade each state on various elements of education performance. This system, called Quality Counts, uses official data on performance from each state to generate a report card for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report card in 2014 uses six different categories:
- Chance for success
- K-12 achievement
- Standards, assessments and accountability
- The teaching profession
- School finance
- Transitions and Alignment
Each of these six categories had a number of other elements that received individual scores. Those scores were then averaged and used to determine the final score in each category. Every state received two types of scores for each of the six major categories: A numerical score out of 100 and a letter grade based on that score. Education Week used the score for the first category, "chance for success," as the value for ranking each state and the District of Columbia. The average grade received in the entire country was 77.3, or a C+ average. The country's highest average score was in the category of "standards, assessments and accountability" at 85.3, or a B average. The lowest average score was in "K-12 achievement", at 70.2, or a C- average.
Colorado received a score of 82.9, or a B average in the "chance for success" category. This was above the national average. Excluding the chance for success category, the state's highest score was in transitions and alignment at 82.1, or a B- average. The lowest score was in the teaching profession at 68.6, or a D+ average. Colorado had the highest scores in both chance for success and K-12 achievement in comparison to its neighboring states. The chart below displays all of the scores of Colorado and its surrounding states.
Note: Click on a column heading to sort the data.
|Public education report cards, 2014|
|State||Chance for success||K-12 achievement||Standards, assessments and accountability||The teaching profession||School finance||Transitions and Alignment|
|Colorado||82.9 (B)||74.2 (C)||81.8 (B-)||66.4 (D)||68.6 (D+)||82.1 (B-)|
|New Mexico||66.6 (D+)||60.3 (D-)||92.0 (A-)||74.3 (C)||70.5 (C-)||89.3 (B+)|
|Utah||79.1 (C+)||69.1 (D+)||81.7 (B-)||64.5 (D)||65.2 (D)||89.3 (B+)|
|Wyoming||79.9 (B-)||70.0 (C-)||79.3 (C+)||66.7 (D+)||90.3 (A-)||78.6 (C+)|
|United States Average||77.3 (C+)||70.2 (C-)||85.3 (B)||72.5 (C)||75.5 (C)||81.1 (B-)|
| Source: Education Week, "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 18, 2015|
A full discussion of how these numbers were generated can be found here.
- Colorado state budget and finances
- Colorado Department of Education
- Colorado school districts
- School choice in Colorado
- Charter schools in Colorado
- Education Policy in the U.S.
- Colorado Department of Education
- Colorado State Board of Education
- Colorado Commissioner of Education
- Colorado School Districts
- State Education, Federal Stimulus Funds - 2009
- Colorado School Performance
- School Accountability Reports
- Colorado Charter Schools
- Colorado School Choice Options
- Colorado Department of Education, "Colorado Report Card (State) -- NAEP Reading and Mathematics 2007," accessed October 13, 2009
- National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
- ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
- United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD); Table 2.—Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011-12," accessed May 12, 2014
- United States Department of Education, "ED Data Express," accessed May 12, 2014
- Colorado Department of Education, "About the Colorado Department of Education," accessed May 14, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Colorado Department of Education, "Commissioner of Education," accessed May 14, 2014
- Colorado Department of Education, "Board Member Profiles," accessed May 14, 2014
- Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State,” accessed June 12, 2014
- Colorado Department of Education, "Standards and Instruction," accessed June 13, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
- United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014
- ACT, "2012 ACT National and State Scores," accessed May 13, 2014
- Commonwealth Foundation, "SAT Scores by State 2013," October 10, 2013
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data File, School Year 2010-11, Provision Version 1a and School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a," accessed May 13, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11," accessed May 13, 2014 (timed out)
- Maciver Institute, "REPORT: How much are teachers really paid?," accessed October 29, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13," accessed May 13, 2014
- Thomas E Fordham Institute, " How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison," October 29, 2012
- Center for Union Facts, "Colorado Education Association," accessed October 1, 2009
- Center for Union Facts, "Colorado Federation of Teachers," accessed October 1, 2009
- Center for Union Facts, "Colorado teachers unions," accessed October 1, 2009
- State of Colorado, "HOUSE BILL 09-1288 - Colorado Transparency Act," accessed October 13, 2009
- Education Week "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 19, 2015
State of Colorado
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Executive Director of Natural Resources | Executive Director of Labor and Employment | Chair of Public Utilities |