Back To The Ballot For Education Funds

The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:

Supporters of increasing state funding for K-12 education have filed more than two dozen proposed ballot measures with the Colorado Legislative Council.

While only one is expected to actually make the ballot this fall, each asks taxpayers to accept an increase in the state’s 4.65 percent income tax rate to raise about $1 billion, all of which would go toward funding public schools.

The proposals are tied to a measure pending before the Colorado Legislature designed to reform the way the state funds education, a bill that guarantees that all 178 of the state’s school districts will see more funding, said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.

“We know people don’t like property taxes, and sales taxes are quite regressive, so income seems to be the right structure,” Johnston said. “We’re working on getting the policy right in the (Capitol) building, and outside the building all of those coalition groups will spend the next month or two fighting over which one of those (ballot measures) they can get a coalition behind.”

Since the failure of Proposition 103 in 2011, which would have raised a relatively small amount of money for education with a short-term reversion to the tax rates in place before they were cut by GOP Gov. Bill Owens in 1999 and 2000, supporters of education funding have realized that a small-scale proposal like Proposition 103 won't attract enough support from Democrats to pass. In retrospect, it's understood that this was a major factor in the drubbing Proposition 103 received at the polls. While conservatives argued against any increase in taxes, liberals were peeled off from support of the measure by arguments that it wasn't enough–and that passing it would make the more comprehensive measures actually needed harder to pass down the road.

This time, however, it's expected that a more comprehensive proposal, one that can really generate the revenue needed to recover from years of cuts to an already unequal and inadequate school finance system in Colorado, is going to fare much better. Most importantly, this campaign will, or at least should, have the support of major players like Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose unwillingness to support Proposition 103 helped doom it.

As for which one of these two dozen different proposals will have the winning formula that heads for the ballot this fall? With apologies to Gov. Hickenlooper's marketing geniuses, that's "TBD."

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    As they do this, can they also please address the growth in K-12 spending? We need good schools, but education inflation is on a growth rate way beyond medical inflation. And that is not sustainable.

    From the U.S. Dept of Education – lots of interesting charts including:

  2. David,

    I'm sure they can address the spending if you can point out where the waste is occurring. A chart on its own means little.

    One of the findings in Lobato is that some schools aren't getting enough money to provide an education to their students. That's a basic legally decided fact for Colorado schools at this time.


    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      I've asked a ton of people about where the increased funding has gone. Must reply with "that's a really interesting question." A few think it's probably pension obligations and/or benefit increases. But no one knows.

      You'd think someone would want to find out.

  3. ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

    Good luck! Maybe you get 40% this time?

  4. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    I will be very reluctant to vote for anything putting even more money into K-12 schools that does not also reverse the devastating cuts we've made to higher education — cuts driven in large part by laws mandating more general fund money to K-12. 

  5. rexxcrowbar says:

    Agreed.  103 being rejected and blaming hickenlooper for not supporting it and that being the reason it failed is a bit of revisionist history.  It did not have widespread support.  Higher Ed tuition increases are continuing to well outpace inflation.  I would like to see this addressed by the legislature or in any proposed ballot initiative and provide more funding for higher education.

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