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Good news, bad news on school growth

We usually think of school growth as a good thing - it signals more families in a community, more jobs for teachers and continued use of neighborhood schools.

But, it can also mean increased burdens for school districts.

State enrollment figures released Monday showed enrollment growth and also showed that the number of Colorado students living in poverty climbed this year at its highest rate since at least 2003 as families grappled with the dismal economy.

As of Oct. 1, 39 percent of students in kindergarten through grade 12 were eligible for participation in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, a common indicator for poverty.

To qualify for the program, a family of four must report an annual income below $40,793.

Colorado’s overall enrollment was up 1.7 percent this fall, to 832,368 students, while the poverty rate was up 3.08 percent. Enrollment growth has typically exceeded growth in poverty in recent years.

The really bad news this week is that the state, strapped for revenue, isn't going to provide extra aid to school districts for higher numbers of students or for more at-risk students.

That will make it tough for schools to cope with the costs of growth this year.

- See Education News Colorado story about the latest school growth stats.

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