As legislators work on the state budget, a term we always hear when they are determining school funding is the “Negative Factor.” It is a provision in state law that reduces the amount of total program funding and state aid provided to K-12 school districts. It acts as a balancing tool for the Legislature, while still abiding by the state requirement of increasing funding by inflation each year. To explain, let’s review the state per pupil funding formula:
Each district receives “base” per pupil funding (the same for every student in Colorado), plus “factors”, or adjustments for differences between school districts for things like district size, number of at-risk students, and cost of living/personnel costs.
The state is required by law to increase the base per pupil spending by inflation plus growth each year.
While the state must grow the “base” each year by inflation plus growth, that rule does not apply to the “factors”. The Negative Factor reduces the factors funding.
Although overall K-12 funding will increase over last year, the Negative Factor prevents this funding from keeping pace with inflation.
According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, “our schools are currently receiving $831 million below inflation increases since 2009….If per-student support for schools had kept pace with inflation since 2009, schools would be getting $1,007 more per student in 2017-18.”
The graph below shows how far per pupil funding has fallen below inflation since the introduction of the Negative Factor in 2009. The cumulative impact of the Negative Factor to SVVSD totals $167.3 million. The blue and green bars represent actual funding, while the red bars show what schools would have received before the Negative Factor was applied.