Denver Public Schools facing pay freeze, school merges amid dire budget during coronavirus

The Denver school district is bracing for a “dire financial situation” next year, in the likely case that a coronavirus-induced economic downturn decimates Colorado education funding.

At a virtual meeting Thursday, the school board discussed drastic options to cut district spending, including freezing teacher pay, merging small schools, and furloughing employees.

“All of these are really tough,” Superintendent Susana Cordova told the board. “I want to make sure as we sit around this metaphoric table that we understand the reason we are having this conversation … is because of the depth of the budget deficit that we anticipate.”

Colorado lawmakers are preparing for a budget hit of as much as $3 billion, a 10% reduction from the budget that Gov. Jared Polis recommended in November, as widespread job losses and business closures related to coronavirus affect sales and income tax projections. Some of the losses could be offset by federal assistance, but school districts around Colorado are likely to lose some of the state revenue that makes up a major share of their budgets.

Denver Public Schools officials predicted the 92,000-student district could lose from $19 million to $61 million in state funding next year. The district operates on an annual budget of more than $1 billion.

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