2017 PPI Score
School Choice Score: 62%
The Douglas County Choice Scholarship program is the country’s first district-created, near-universal school voucher program. The program, which is authorized by the public school district, was enacted in 2011 has faced numerous legal challenges. In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the program unconstitutional on the grounds the program, which allowed violated the state constitution’s Blaine amendment (forbidding aid to religious schools). Petitions for Writ of Certiorari were filed in the fall of 2015, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. On June 27, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case, vacated the June 2015 decision of the Colorado Supreme Court, and sent the case back to the Colorado Supreme Court with instruction to reconsider the constitutionality of the Douglas County Choice Scholarship program in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran v Comer.
Charter Schools Score: 82%
Colorado rose in this year’s rankings because it established an independent Charter School Institute that can authorize schools. In addition to this institute, all local school districts in Colorado may authorize charter schools. The addition of the Charter School Institute as an authorizer enhances the charter sector in the state; however, the law prevents the Institute from authorizing schools in districts where the State Board of Education has granted exclusive chartering authority. This limits opportunities for operators to establish diverse schools.
CER also ranks Colorado highly because it provides charter schools with significant operational autonomies and a comparatively strong funding base.
- Fast Facts
- Law passed in 1993
- Number of Charters: 239
- Estimated Charter Enrollment: 114,700 (up 5 percent from 2015-16)
- Colorado does not cap the number of students who are attending charter schools
- Charters are entitled to 100 percent of the per-pupil operating funds their students would receive in district schools minus up to 5 percent in administrative fees
- Colorado allows charter schools to contract all education service providers and virtual charter schools are allowed
- A study by the university of Arkansas concluded that Charter Schools in Denver receive 21 percent less in per-pupil funding than traditional public schools
- Colorado receives only 9 of 15 possible points for “authorizing” because the Colorado Charter Schools Institute (CCSI) can only authorize in locales where the state has not granted districts exclusive operating authority. Districts that enroll 3,000 students or automatically receive this authority and other districts can apply to the state board to receive authority. Because the CCSI does not have the ability to authorize schools throughout the entire state of Colorado, districts authorize most charters in the state. While districts like Denver have earned a reputation for strong authorizing practices, many districts still challenge or deny high quality charter applications. They may also provide inequitable funding for charters
- Growth scores are high because the state does not cap the number of charter schools that are allowed to be authorized and there is steady expansion of charters.
- Charter schools receive automatic waivers from many laws and regulations that govern districts, which gives them reasonable autonomy.
Facilities funding for charter schools is extremely limited ($98 per-pupil in 2017). The law provides for operations funding to be about 95 percent of that allotted to district schools, but there is little to no accountability for equitable funding, and equitable funding practices vary widely between authorizing districts.
 Patrick J. Wolf, Larry D. Maloney, Jay F. May, & Corey A. DeAngelis (2017)
Online Learning Score: 62%
Students in the state have access to a diverse set of high-quality providers and courses may be purchased without policy barriers that limit procurement. But funding and other policies for online learning could be improved to ensure eligibility for students. Colorado is a state where funding follows the student.
Teacher Quality Score: 75%
Delivering Well Prepared Teachers D
Expanding the Pool of Teachers D+
Identifying Effective Teachers B
Retaining Effective Teachers C
Exiting Ineffective Teachers C+