DENVER – The Colorado Department of Education is hoping to pull back the curtain on school finance with a new website dedicated to tracking the funding streams and expenditures of the state’s 178 school districts.
The Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools website went live last week as a response to legislation passed in 2010 and 2014 that requires financial information to be posted online for public access and presented in a way that is easy to understand.
“This website illustrates in a clear and understandable manner how school districts use their limited resources to educate our students,” Colorado’s Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a statement.
The website, created by Brightbytes, an education analytics firm based in San Francisco, uses data provided by districts across the state.
Included in the data, which is for the 2015-16 fiscal year, is the total amount of funding districts receive, broken down by source, and how it is spent.
According to the website, Durango School District 9-R and Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 received $64.4 million and $28.8 million, respectively, in combined funding from state, local and federal sources for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Of this funding, $49.7 million of Durango’s and $19.7 million of Cortez’s went toward day-to-day operations of school activities.
This averages to per-pupil funding of $10,601 in La Plata County and $9,878 in Montezuma County, before the cost of various support and ancillary services are considered.
Once these services are accounted for, the actual per-pupil funding at schools in the Durango district ranges from a low of $6,204 at Needham Elementary School to a high of $9,190 at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary.
In Cortez, the highest funded school, on a per-pupil basis, is the Southwest Open Charter School, which receives $10,609 per student, placing it well over the average for the district. The lowest-funded school in the district is Mesa Elementary School, which receives $5,750 per student, according to the website.
Also ranked is the per-student expenditure for various facets of a district against the average for the state.
According to the website, the Durango district spends $144 less per student than the state average on instructional spending, which includes salaries and benefits for teachers, and a combined $67 less on school and district administration.
The Cortez district also falls below the state average in both of these categories, by $530 per student for instructional spending and a combined $57 for administration. The district also spends $142 less on operation and maintenance of district property.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Cortez district spends an additional $79 per student on food services and $91 for transportation.
The Durango district outspends the state average on student support services and operations and maintenance by $73 and $52 per student, respectively.