Ed­u­ca­tors look­ing to gover­nor, leg­is­la­ture after re­jec­tion of $1.6 bil­lion school fund­ing mea­sure

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Monte Wha­ley

The solid re­jec­tion of Amend­ment 73, the statewide tax mea­sure that would have raised $1.6 bil­lion an­nu­ally for Colorado’s schools, is forc­ing ed­u­ca­tors to look to the gover­nor-elect and state law­mak­ers for help.

“With our loss (Tues­day night), fund­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Colorado is still in dire need,” said Char­lotte Cian­cio, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Maple­ton School District in Adams County and a sup­porter of Amend­ment 73. “If this isn’t the fix Colorado vot­ers want right now, we are com­pelled to con­tinue work­ing with the leg­is­la­ture, and now our new gover­nor, to get it right.

“This loss is dev­as­tat­ing for many of our small ru­ral dis­tricts.”

Gov.-elect Jared Po­lis was called a “pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion cham­pion” by the Colorado Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion after Tues­day’s elec­tion, with the teach­ers union adding that it hoped to work with Po­lis to make uni­ver­sal full­day kin­der­garten and preschool a re­al­ity in Colorado.

Yet there were some vic­to­ries for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion Tues­day, with vot­ers ap­prov­ing a ma­jor­ity of the state’s lo­cal school bond is­sues and fund­ing pack­ages.

But that doesn’t di­min­ish the sting of Amend­ment 73 los­ing by a 55.5 per­cent-to-45.4 per­cent mar­gin, said Tra­cie Rainey of the Colorado School Fi­nance Pro­ject.

“When you look at the dis­par­ity in fund­ing for these ru­ral dis­tricts, Amend­ment 73 not pass­ing is un­be­liev­ably dev­as­tat­ing for their com­mu­ni­ties,” Rainey said.

Eight school bond is­sues were put to vot­ers Tues­day night for a record amount of $1.5 bil­lion. Dis­tricts wanted to im­prove ag­ing play­grounds, schools and up­grade se­cu­rity sys­tems. Five of the eight bond is­sues passed for a to­tal of $572 mil­lion for build­ing im­prove­ments.

Vot­ers in Jef­fer­son County re­jected a $567 mil­lion bond is­sue and yet passed a $33 mil­lion mill levy over­ride — a tax in­crease to re­tain and at­tract teach­ers. Sup­port­ers of the tax in­crease were grate­ful for the pos­i­tive vote, but were stung by the de­feat of the bond is­sue.

“This ad­di­tional rev­enue will help close the pay gap be­tween Jef­fco and sur­round­ing dis­tricts, but many are dis­ap­pointed that the bond pack­age was re­jected by vot­ers,” said Jef­fer­son County Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion spokes­woman Chris­tine Wig­gins. “Jef­fco schools built prior to 1980 are in need of sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment due to con­tin­ual cuts in fund­ing.”

Vot­ers in Jef­fer­son County may have sim­ply looked at the bal­lot and de­cided to ap­prove the lesser amount for schools, Rainey said.

“I think they will go with the smaller num­ber with­out nec­es­sar­ily know­ing the im­pact of not go­ing with the larger num­ber,” she said.

Fif­teen mill-levy over­rides passed Tues­day, to­tal­ing about $190 mil­lion in new fund­ing to hire teach­ers, coun­selors and ex­pand in­struc­tional pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures from Rainey. Five tax in­creases were re­jected.

Dou­glas County vot­ers — stingy to­ward school fund­ing in re­cent years — passed a $40 mil­lion mill levy over­ride and a $250 mil­lion bond is­sue.

“I think Dou­glas County did a good job of show­ing the needs of the district,” Rainey said.

Amend­ment 73 would have set aside money to pay for full-day kin­der­garten and ad­di­tional preschool slots, as well as tar­get­ing money to stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, those learn­ing English and those iden­ti­fied as gifted. The mea­sure would have di­rected law­mak­ers to come up with a new school fund­ing for­mula.

The mea­sure would have cre­ated a grad­u­ated in­come tax for peo­ple earn­ing more than $150,000 a year and raised the state cor­po­rate tax rate. It also would have changed the as­sess­ment rate — the por­tion of prop­erty val­ues that is taxed — for com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial prop­erty.

In all, pro­po­nents ex­pected to raise an ad­di­tional $1.6 bil­lion a year for preschool through 12thgrade ed­u­ca­tion.

Amend­ment 66 — a state tax mea­sure for schools — was re­jected by two-thirds of vot­ers in 2013.

Back­ers of Amend­ment 73 be­lieved they im­proved their chances this year by har­ness­ing wide­spread teacher ac­tivism and let­ting lo­cal dis­tricts de­cide how they wanted to spend their share of the mea­sure’s pro­ceeds.

Crit­ics, how­ever, blasted Amend­ment 73 as just an­other at­tempt to throw tax dol­lars into an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem bur­dened by ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and lit­tle ac­count­abil­ity. They say in­creases in teacher salaries and other needed im­prove­ments in Colorado will not hap­pen un­less there is full-scale re­form.

“We know that a mas­sive tax in­crease that is not tied to re­sults is not go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence for Colorado kids,” said Katie Kruger, the No on 73 cam­paign cochair. “We hope that both sides of this de­bate will set aside dif­fer­ences, roll up their sleeves and work to­gether to come up with real so­lu­tions.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.