Wary of Teacher Walkouts, States Aim to Boost School Spending

By: - January 29, 2019 12:00 am

Elementary school students Capri Mac, right, and her brother Sawyer, second from right, support teachers during a citywide strike this month in Los Angeles. With many states poised to increase education funding this year, teachers are pressuring districts and legislatures to ensure their needs are met. Richard Vogel/The Associated Press

This is Part Two of the State of the States 2019 series.

DENVER — Spurred by teacher strikes and a sense of crisis, Colorado’s new governor is one of 33 newly elected leaders of states and territories who campaigned on improving education funding. In many states, both Republicans and Democrats agree that schools need more money and teachers need better pay.

Education “is probably the most important issue” facing the legislature, said Colorado state Sen. Bob Rankin, a Republican who recently co-chaired a state education council.

But while most states are likely to put more money into schools this year, political divisions, budget constraints and competing visions for how to fix the education system could lead to some tense debates.

Colorado is one state where education funding might spark a battle even though finances have improved. Colorado is projected to have .2 billion more to spend in the coming fiscal year.

But lawmakers will have to balance Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ million campaign pledge to offer full-day kindergarten to all children against other priorities, such as a push by teachers unions to spend million to bring K-12 funding up to the level recommended by the state school funding formula.

And a 1992 state constitutional amendment that limits the legislature’s power to tax and grow revenue may require some of the new money to be refunded to residents.

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Sophie Quinton

Sophie Quinton writes about fiscal and economic policy for Stateline. Previously, she wrote for National Journal.