K-12 schools could face cuts in new Colo. budget

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Public schools could take an even bigger funding hit next year under the budget proposal unveiled by Colorado’s new governor.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to brief lawmakers on his proposal Tuesday afternoon. He’s expected to announce more cuts as one-time federal stimulus money dries up and the state faces more demand for services because of the troubled economy.

Education groups say funding for kindergarten through 12th grade schools could be cut by between $300 million and $400 million, worse than the $260 million cut schools saw in the current budget.

Hickenlooper’s proposal will be for the budget year that begins in July.

The final say rests with state lawmakers, who will draw up their own budget proposal and pass it before the session ends in May.

In the latest forecast on state revenue, legislative economists said in December that state lawmakers could face a shortfall of at least $1 billion due to the loss of federal dollars, inflation and increased demand for services like Medicaid, the health insurance plan for the poor.

Among the money set to disappear in the new budget year is $363.6 million in federal stimulus funding used for Medicaid and $89.2 million in stimulus funds for the state’s colleges and universities.

During the recession, state lawmakers also voted to temporarily divert revenue from a voter-approved tobacco tax to pay for Medicaid – money that is normally used to pay for smoking prevention and health programs. The authorization to spend that $96 million on Medicaid is also set to end.