Most public schools in Colorado rely on property taxes to fund their capital needs. Small school districts, or poor districts, have a more difficult time. A few years ago, several districts without the means to finance their needed capital projects sued the state in what is commonly referred to as the "Giardino lawsuit."
The CLCS report, Shortchanged Charters: How Funding Disparities Hurt Colorado's Charter Schools, says that:
* On average, charter schools in Colorado spend $480 per student from designated per-pupil operating revenue (PPOR) on facilities costs.
* For schools renting space that figure is $536.
* However, for schools that have bought or built buildings they now own, the figure increases to $650.
* About a quarter (28 percent) of charter schools have access to school district buildings or land. These schools have lower facilities expenditures than charter schools that rent or pay debt service for facilities they own. These charters spend about $189 per student on facilities.
The PPOR amount is designated by the state Legislature each year in the School Finance Act bill. From this amount, school districts pay employees, buy textbooks, and fund administrative costs. The Legislature didn't intend for PPOR to be used for capital needs. Instead, they add an additional amount, called "capital and liability insurance reserve" for capital needs. Schools must pay their liability insurance from this fund and whatever is left may go to capital. In addition to this cap reserve fund, school districts may raise money through property taxes.