FILE - Virus Outbreak Colorado Schools

Closed to students to prevent the spread of coronavirus, physical education teacher Mike Whittlef uses his laptop computer to check in on his students while he works in the empty gymnasium in Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver. 

(The Center Square) – A recent study examines how Colorado allocated the federal stimulus dollars it received for the state’s K-12 school system.

The study found that Colorado’s schools received nearly 10-times the federal funding they would normally see because of the stimulus funds. 

"Colorado has seen an incredible influx of funding for education as a result of the pandemic,” said the report's author, Dr. Brenda Bautsch Dickhoner, a fellow at the Common Sense Institute. “Leaders at the state level and at school districts are having to make choices on how to use the $2.5 billion of one-time funding in a way that maximizes impact and contributes to sustainable improvements in the system."

According to the study, Colorado sent approximately $1.6 billion of the $2.5 billion that it was allocated to schools that serve students from low-income families.

CSI calculated school funding from the state’s School Finance Act was down $368 million, from $7.6 billion in fiscal year 2020 to $7.23 billion in fiscal year 2021. 

Last year, lawmakers took a total of $1.3 billion from the state’s education coffers to balance the $3.3 billion budgetary shortfall created by local public health orders.

To help local schools, lawmakers made school funding a priority during the 2021 legislative session. They passed a bill increasing funding through the School Finance Act by 10.4%, and another bill that requires school districts to receive their pre-COVID level of funds.

Colorado’s Department of Education (CDE) received the remainder of the stimulus funds, according to the study. Of that total, CDE still holds nearly $150 million with $117 million still left to be allocated from its Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF) dollars.

ESSERF dollars must be spent on three things. First, school districts must invest in finding evidence-based interventions to COVID-19-like events. The remaining funds must be split between increased summer school and after school programs.

The report said CDE plans to conduct a “listening tour” this summer to decide how the funds should be spent.