Voters reject statewide education funding measure

Supporters are hopeful to spark ongoing conversations

Posted 11/13/18

Many educators across Colorado believe voters missed an opportunity to support students when they voted down Amendment 73, a constitutional amendment that would have instituted a graduated income tax …

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Voters reject statewide education funding measure

Supporters are hopeful to spark ongoing conversations

Posted

Many educators across Colorado believe voters missed an opportunity to support students when they voted down Amendment 73, a constitutional amendment that would have instituted a graduated income tax increase on individuals earning more than $150,000 a year and increased the corporate income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.

“The loss of Amendment 73 is heartbreaking,” said Angela Anderson, a social studies teacher at Bear Creek High School, part of Jefferson County Public Schools. “I feel like the voters in Colorado support our schools and education, but we can’t fund our schools on gratitude. My students are worth the investment, and I am determined to keep going in order for them to have a fully funded public education.”

Members of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, the teachers’ union, felt the same way.

“Colorado has chronically underfunded our schools even as we have a strong economy,” said Kallie Leyba, president of the federation. “We are very concerned about what the implications for Douglas County will be, as well as the implications for districts across our state … Colorado cannot afford to continue to underfund PK-12 education without hurting our community and our economy.”

About 55 percent of Colorado voters said no to Amendment 73 in the Nov. 6 election, according to results posted Nov. 8. In the extended Denver metro area, only Denver, Broomfield and Boulder counties passed the amendment.

The measure, which would have brought about $1.6 billion to school districts throughout the state, also aimed to created a fixed residential property tax rates at 7 percent, preventing school districts from falling further behind in funding due to the Gallagher Amendment.

Supporters of the measure said funding shortfalls — largely blamed on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR — have resulted in educators leaving the profession, vacant teaching positions across the state and fewer experienced professionals in classrooms.

But Jesse Mallory, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, an organization that advocates for conservative causes, said Coloradans were rightly leery of a large tax increase without guaranteed results.

“The Legislature should instead look at ways to increase funding by cutting wasteful spending, ending fraud and abuse, and eliminating handouts and tax loopholes for powerful and well-connected special interests,” Mallory said in a news release.

Education leaders in Littleton Public Schools take the failure of the measure as a learning experience.

“Tax increases are difficult to pass,” said Brian Ewert, LPS superintendent, whose district saw a bond measure pass by a wide margin on Nov. 6. “We need to step back and look at what voters told us.”

Ewert said leaders need to think about what part of the tax policy was objectionable, what a tax policy should look like and who should be at the table to discuss it.

“Amendments that include tax increases are difficult to pass,” he said. “Hopefully, this will send a message to the entire state to advocate for public education.”

Jack Reutzel, Littleton Public Schools Board of Education president, is hopeful that the Democrats’ push in the state Legislature will allow for more talks about increasing statewide education funding in the future.

“With the change in the makeup of the state Legislature, we think we’re going to have a sympathetic ear for K-12 education at the state House,” Reutzel said.

Those sentiments are shared by Lisa Weil, executive director of Great Education Colorado, part of the coalition that supported 73.

“This conversation, and the effort for equitable funding for Colorado schools, will continue, as will the broad-based coalition that came together to help our schools, kids and teachers,” Weil said. “Together, we’ve changed the conversation and established that school funding is in crisis in Colorado. We’ve addressed it at the grassroots level, we’ve made our voices heard and we expect our public officials to listen and to come together on solutions.”

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