Public school classrooms across the state are seating a growing number of newly-enrolled students.

(Photo: Flickr/Ajari)

Colorado’s public school enrollment rose by almost 10,000 students in the 2011-2012 school year. But just a year earlier, the amount of education funding spent per-student took a significant hit. This, according to a recent report by the Colorado School Finance Project.  

Published findings reflect a steady drop in K-12 funding over the past several years and reveals, among other itemized cuts, eliminated funding for the state's English Language Learners (ELL) program.     

In November, voters rejected Amendment 66, a statewide school funding measure. But school funding advocate Tracie Rainey, whose research organization authored the report,  is holding out hope that a healing economy will bring some financial relief to state classrooms. 

"As the state is recovering from the downturn, hopefully there can be the opportunity for K-12 to benefit during that [same] time," Rainey said.

The funding report spotlights another big challenge facing school across the state: more than one-third of Colorado's 800,000 students are considered "at risk" and qualify for free lunches -- the largest percentage to demonstrate such need in nearly 20 years.