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Briefs: Spending on kids squeezed

The annual Children’s Budget report from the Colorado Children’s Campaign finds that state spending on a variety of programs and services for children is slipping relative to the need.

The report calculated that $6.72 billion is being spent on children in the current budget year, up 6.3 percent in dollar terms from the figure five years ago. “However, after taking into account inflation and the growth in child population to be served, the budget for children’s programs decreased by compound average annual rate of change of 1.9 percent,” the study noted.

Children’s programs account for about 32 percent of spending in the current year, down from more than 36 percent in 2011-12.

Money spent on health services is growing, but spending on early childhood and family support has declined. Education spending hasn’t kept pace with inflation and population growth, the report found.

“While there are exceptions, especially in the area of child health, state investments in Colorado children have been sliding. … Five years of state spending show that investments in child health, education and safety aren’t keeping up with inflation and a growing child population,” Children’s Campaign CEO Chris Watney wrote in the introduction to the 66-page report. With the economy improving, she continued, “Restoring cuts to education, health and social services that help kids grow up strong should be our first priority.”

The study including spending on early childhood care and education; schools; health services; child and youth services, including child welfare and youth corrections, and economic supports, including welfare and low-income energy assistance.

Read the report here.

CDE honors top districts, schools

The Colorado Department of Education today honored the state’s 19 top-rated school districts, plus 328 schools that won 2012 Centers of Excellence, Governor’s Distinguished Improvement or John Irwin Schools of Excellence awards.

The 17 districts are those that received Accredited with Distinction ratings, the highest level in state’s five-step accreditation system. (See this story for details about the 2012 district ratings, and find your district’s rating here.)

The Centers of Excellence award honors schools that demonstrate the highest sustained rates of student growth among those that have at least 75 percent at-risk students. In 2012, 17 schools earned this award.

The Governor’s Distinguished Improvement awards are given to schools that demonstrate excellent student growth by exceeding expectations over three years. In 2012, 145 schools were honored.

The John Irwin awards are given to schools that demonstrate excellent academic achievement over a three-year period. In 2012, 166 schools earned this award.

See the full list of schools here.

Healthy schools grant deadline approaching

Schools that are taking steps to improve health practices in their buildings may qualify for seed money or other financial awards from the Colorado Coalition for Healthy Schools, a group of foundations and public agencies with a stake in school health and wellness. Schools interested in vying for the awards, which last year ranged from $500-$5,000, must fill out the “Healthy School Champions Score Card” by Jan. 10, 2013.

There are two versions of the score card. The first is a “Planning Story” template for schools that are just starting to the process of implementing healthier practices. The second is a “Success Story” template for schools that have already implemented healthy school initiatives. About three seed money awards will be available to schools in the planning stages of health initiatives and about 25 recognition awards will go to schools that have already implemented such initiatives. The score card is based on the School Health Index and identifies many best practices in the area of school health. School staff members, parents or school partners can submit a score card.