Although more tax dollars are obtained from cannabis sold within Denver’s city limitations than in any other place in Colorado, extremely little of it really makes its way into classrooms there or anywhere else in the state.
That’s since the system lawmakers produced to disperse marijuana tax profits did not plan for the cash to be used for things such as a instructor’s income.
Instead, the nearly $200 million that’s gathered each year – the number has gradually increased considering that legalized marijuana sales began in 2014 – is earmarked for a range of school-related expenditures. Those consist of construction and rehab of buildings, and programs to prevent marijuana usage and bullying, lower dropout rates, and increase early literacy.
But not instructors.
“Amendment 64 never ever promised to totally resolve the state’s education financing problems,” organizer and lawyer Brian Vicente told The Denver Post in an email. “The concept to direct the (first $40 million in) funds to the state’s public school building fund rather of to teachers and classrooms came from the Colorado Education Association, which pointed out how little funding was being directed towards it.”
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The legislature last year got to dole out about $120 million to a host of recipients that consisted of the Colorado State Fair, psychological health services, juvenile justice diversion programs, law enforcement against cannabis’s gray market, affordable real estate programs, and compound abuse programs.
But not teachers.
And with Denver teachers on strike for the first time in a quarter century, primarily over concerns of pay, parents and onlookers are quick to ask: “What about all that marijuana money?”
“Marijuana earnings is directed to various programs as detailed by law,” Jennifer Oakes, the CEO of the Colorado Department of Education, said in an e-mail to The Post. “The majority of cannabis tax revenues directed to K-12 education is dispersed in the form of grant programs, including capital funding for school structures.”
In the past two years, records show DPS has gotten about $2.8 million for programs to end bullying, lower dropout rates, promote literacy and hire more nurses.
Aside from the grant cash, the just marijuana tax income that really makes it into the coffers of Denver Public Schools is a little bit intermingled with funds the state pays each district, known as the equalization payment.
“Some marijuana tax earnings is transferred in the State Public School Fund, which is one of the sources for the state share of total program funding through the School Finance Act,” Oakes said in the email.
Last fiscal year, Denver got about $279 million from the state, or roughly 20 percent of its total operating budget plan. Of that piece, marijuana tax dollars make up about 1/100th of it – roughly 1 cent for every dollar in the DPS allotment. Due to the fact that it’s all mixed together, there’s no way to see where any one dollar in fact goes.
And even however the city of Denver last year collected more than $30 million in marijuana sales tax income – $26 million of it from its own regional sales taxes – it’s not likely those dollars would be moved from municipal government to the school system.
Much of the reason why marijuana tax dollars have not been targeted toward teacher salaries is the mercurial nature of the financing stream. Raises dependent on marijuana sales would be as precarious as the financing itself.
When the legislature in 2017 offered rural school districts a one-time block of marijuana cash to be utilized as each picked, none of them put it towards incomes. That’s because any raises would have to be moneyed the next year from a different source.