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August 07, 2013 10:17 AM UTC

School Finance Campaign Pre-Buts Opposition

  • by: Colorado Pols

A lengthy release yesterday from Colorado Commits to Kids summarizes and rebuts in advance the arguments against this year's ballot initiative to raise revenue for public education via a two-tiered progressive income tax increase. As an added bonus, what may soon be known as the "Yes on Amendment 66" campaign grabbed an opposition domain name,, and posted the same pre-buttal of opponents' talking points there:

1. FICTION: New money raised from the Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative will go straight to the General Fund where it can be “hijacked” for other purposes  … there’s no guarantee the new money makes its way to teachers, students and classrooms.
FACT: The additional money is locked in a newly created fund – the School Educational Achievement Fund – which is constitutionally protected from any use other than for improvements in the classroom. All other state education spending will be through State Education Fund, which is also constitutionally protected and can't be used for non-P-12 expenditures. (1)
2. FICTION: A business owner will see the taxes on his business and his personal taxes go up. 
FACT: The Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative increases the state income tax rates on “individuals, estates and trusts.” It does not touch the state’s business income tax. Some business owners may pay their taxes via their personal income tax, but no one will be double taxed. (2)

3. FICTION: The Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative doesn’t include line-by-line transparency or accountability measures.
FACT: Districts are already subject to line by line accounting by way of Colorado's common chart of accounts. We will be adding the additional requirement that they not only report line by line relative to district spending, but also according to individual school spending. For example, we already require districts to report how much they spend as a district on reading coaches. We will now be requiring that they report how much they spend on reading coaches for individual schools. The same can be said about every other expenditure within a district. (3)
Additionally, Senate Bill 213 requires the state to publish regular reports that will be used to continually improve our system. The first will determine how much funding is needed for schools to meet all the requirements in our state’s education policies and laws. A second report will look at the return on investment for taxpayers by examining the relationship between education spending and student outcomes. Together, these reports will be powerful tools to ensure Colorado’s education system is effective, efficient and ensuring students continue to achieve. (4)
4. FICTION: It doesn’t do enough for charters or school choice. 
FACT: Colorado has a robust school choice movement, but charter schools and district schools have not been funded equally. The Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative would support school choice by helping to provide equal funding to charter schools and district schools, ensuring that students receive the same support no matter the type of school they attend. (5)
Additionally, the financial transparency website mandated by SB 213 helps improve parental choice, as they are able to compare how schools spend money when deciding where to send their kids.  
5. FICTION: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton says nothing will prevent districts from simply taking the new money and, through “substitution,” using it to pay for other items – notably pension liability.
FACT: Similar to the current State Education Fund, money raised by Colorado Commits to Kids is constitutionally and statutorily prohibited from ever being used directly to fund PERA. It’s that simple.
6. FICTION: We don’t need to increase money for schools, as demonstrated by collections this year that exceeded projections:
FACT: The State Education Fund is currently not sufficient to support the annual and on-going needs of our students. The higher-than-expected revenues are largely one-time in nature and are not guaranteed to be available in future years. (6)

Because of the higher-than-expected revenues, the State Legislature transferred additional money into the State Education Fund. The additional money constitutes a one-time boost, however, and cannot be relied upon in future years. (7) According to the nonpartisan Legislative Council, it is not expected that these transfers will continue beyond the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Colorado requires on-going, sustainable funding to support our students via the reforms outlined in Senate Bill 213.
For more facts, visit www.

(1) Source: “Initiative 22” and CRS 22-54.5-102

(2) Source: “Initiative 22 title”

(3) Source: Senate Bill 213, p. 131

(4) Source: Ibid., pages  24-25.

(5) Source: Ibid., pages pgs 70-74.

(6) Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, "The Colorado Outlook Economic and Fiscal Review" June 2013 and Colorado Legislative Council, "Economic and Revenue Forecast, June 2013" June 20, 2013.

(7) Transfer Of General Fund Surplus to State Ed Fund, HB12-1338, Sixty-eighth General Assembly (2012).


15 thoughts on “School Finance Campaign Pre-Buts Opposition

  1. Re: "5. FICTION: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton says nothing will prevent districts from simply taking the new money and, through “substitution,” using it to pay for other items – notably pension liability.
    FACT: Similar to the current State Education Fund, money raised by Colorado Commits to Kids is constitutionally and statutorily prohibited from ever being used directly to fund PERA. It’s that simple."

    Governor Hickenlooper on the relationship of the education funding ballot proposal to PERA funding:

    "There is no lump sum subsidy of PERA anywhere in this."

    Mike Rosen: "I didn't say there was."


  2. FACT: It is a tax increase.
    FACT: Voters are sceptical of tax increases.

    FACT: It is "a two-tiered progressive income tax increase"
    FORECAST: Once the opposition hammers home this point, it is DOA.

    1. Again Dave, what are you basing that on? Polls I see show SUPPORT for progressive taxes, not opposition.

      Do you have evidence that progressive taxation is less popular with the public or don't you?

    2. Speaking as someone who will pay more under this proposal – I support it. I think a multi-tiered tax system is fairer. With that said, on the day I have to send in my tax payment, I'll bitch about it being too high. I do every year.

      But only on that one day…

  3. I kind of understand State education tax, more so County tax and am nearly down with district tax but why is nobody fighting the Feds?  You have to reduce taxes somewhere to increase them somewhere else otherwise you are constantly eroding the private share of GDP.

    I mean if you do not lower Fed tax, keep raising all other taxes, GDP will eventually be consumed in totality.

    What tax rate will be enough? When will it stop?  Will it ever be enough?


    Will a socialist from either major party please chime in and explain the end game…


    1. Let us return to the glory days of Ronald Reagan tax rates.

      Or, maybe to the slightly less glorious days of Clinton tax rates, before George Bush lowered them.

      Nockie, educate yourself, as it isn't my job: Look up, State, Local, Federal, Property, Gasoline, etc, and add them up. Do this for the past several decades.

    2. "Will a socialist from either major party please chime in and explain the end game…"

      That steaming socialist Ronald Reagan probably would, but, at last check he's still mostly dead  (. . . and anyway your 21st-century-patriot ilk never really listened to much of anything he said, beyond a few cherry-picked sound bites, . . . just like with the bible)

  4. Unfortunately, it is another FACT that the proposed tax increase does nothing for higher education, which is basically being privatized in Colorado and is in far worse shape than K-12.

    We get expanded kindergarten from the new taxes and not much else.  While I respedt the support of thoughtful folks like David Thielen, so far I am underwhelmed.   Incidentally, as a retiree, I would pay almost nothing in the new tax increase because Colorado has such a high exemption for pensions.   But I  deeply appreciate what my own higher education did for me.   My kids have a J.D. and a Ph.D respectively.   Is it asking too much that my grandchildren also have a chance to go to college?


    1. V – I agree with a lot of what you said. But I've got a big question. If we changed HE funding to 90% starting next year, do you think that would solve the problem? Or do yu think tuition would skyrocket over the next 10 years? I think it would skyrocket which means we have to fix the system before paying more in.


      1. The problem, David, is that tuition has been soaring because the state has steadily reduced funding.   Both of my kinds went to private sschools for their advanced degrees: DU for my daughers law degree and Boston College for my sons Ph.D in philosophy.   She now owes $200 k in student loans, he owes about $100k –fortunately, he had a full ride fellowship after his Masters.  We need sweeping reforms in higher education, especially in terms of cost controls.   But declining state support has simply caused colleges to boost tuition and let the students put it on Master Card.   As a result student debt — which can't be discharged in bankruptcy — is reaching ruinous levels.   If I could cash in my 401k tax free, it would just about be enough to pay off my kids student debts.   We are pricing college out of the reach of a whole generation and will forfeit the 21st century as a result.


        1. This is what has happened over the past decade to tuition. Ten years ago the state of Colorado paid for 68 cents of every student's college or univeristy education and the student paid the remainder. Today, that has been flipped on its head and the student pays 68 cents of every dollar. If state funding actually went to 90% of the cost, turition immediately would be significantly reduced by about 85%.

          The second question is why has this happened. TABOR is by far the greatest culprit. When revenues decrease the only two places in the state budget to cut significantly are the Higher Education and CDOT budgets. The legislature's hands are tied.

          Some people suggest we shouldn't support this years initiative for K-12 because funding for higher education isn't included but the fact remains all of the polling done over the past two years has, on every ocassion, shown the public supports additional funding for pre-school, elementary and secondary education but not for higher education. Sad but true in a state, that next to Massachusetts, is the most highly educated state in America. What makes it sadder is the fact our work force needs require that 70% of our high school graduates receive post secondary education. Only around 45% do at this time. We've been lucky thus far by importing graduates trained at colleges and universities in other states to make up the difference but we have to do more. Next year we should lok at and do something about dunding for higher education.

          1. Colorado's state revenue stream has been restricted beyond that otherwise required under the TABOR amendment (Bill Owens income tax cut) and essentially enshrined into the constitutional amendment.

          2. A good analysis, R-36.   But when you say "Next year we should lok at and do something about dunding for higher education.    

            you assume that this passes  It would be the first-ever statewide voter approved tax increase post TABOR.  Toi think that voters would come right back and approve another tax increase for Hi-ed — which you admit is less popular than the K-12 (though K-12 is much better funded than hi-ed in this state) is to assume a politically unlikely result.    As long as K-12 demands everything  and won't do anything for other educational needs, I'm a "no."

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