Pot tax dollars are helping some schools while others won’t see a dime

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — One of the big pushes for the legalization of marijuana was the $40 million a year from the excise tax revenue that would go toward schools. But as those revenues trickle into the state, they’re not coming close to those projections. While some schools are starting to see the advantages, one major misconception is that all Colorado schools will reap those benefits.

“The state funding which goes to the state and ultimately would flow back to K-12 schools has been much smaller than anticipated just because they haven’t seen as much of that migration from medical marijuana to recreational marijuana,” Glenn Gustafson, Chief Financial Officer at District 11, said.

Those tax dollars go into what’s called the State Capital Construction Fund, which is operated on a grant basis, based on district size and wealth.

“Some of those schools could desperately use some of those funds and yet we don’t qualify because of our district characteristics, not because of the school characteristics,” said Gustafson.

Now parents are asking why their kids’ schools aren’t seeing the money they thought they were promised.

“Everybody wants to know what’s happening, why that hasn’t been the solution,” Gustafson said.

“It’s not surprising at all that we’re getting the old bait and switch on this again,” said one District 11 parent.

Because District 11 as a whole is a fairly affluent district and it has a large student population, they are left on the outside looking in, but the district isn’t alone.

“We’re all in the same boat,” Gustafson said. “We’re all struggling the same way, whether you’re Academy School District 20 or Harrison District 2 or D11. We’re all struggling that the state has not been able to restore the funding that was cut during the recession.”

Cuts made by the state during the recession equaled $1,000 per student. With 850,000 students in Colorado, that’s an $850 million reduction.

“But even as you speak about $40 million which might sound like a lot of money, the statewide budget for K-12 education is closer to $6 billion,” said Gustafson.

District 11 officials said as far as they know, there are no school districts in the Pikes Peak region who qualify.

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