Another ballot bid to raise big bucks for the state’s schools

Colorado Politics
Author: Dan Njegomir - January 5, 2018 - Updated: January 5, 2018

The rule of thumb when it comes to mounting a statewide citizens initiative for public school funding is — don’t bother. Whichever way the political pendulum happens to be swinging in a given election cycle, Colorado voters seldom seem in the mood for giving the state government more money, even for schools.

Local school ballot issues are entirely another matter, of course, but at the state level, the last attempt to raise taxes for schools was shot down by voters 2-to-1, in 2013.

And yet, as Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia informs us, some true believers in the quest to up the ante for education funding have boldly stepped forward once again. Garcia reports this week that public-ed activists Martha Olson of Boulder and Donald Anderson of Fort Collins have filed a bevy of ballot proposals with the state, and expect to file more, to raise up to $1.7 billion more for Colorado schools. (All the proposals are variations of one another, a standard tactic in testing the waters for a ballot issue.)

Here’s Garcia with more:

While each proposal varies slightly, each would create a new graduated income tax on individuals making more than $150,000. Some proposals would also create a new corporate tax, while others would make modifications to how personal and commercial property is taxed for schools. Some do all three. …

… Ultimately, though, voters will vote on just one of the various proposals — if Olson and Anderson and their network of supporters can gather enough signatures to place one on the ballot.

Making the bid’s long odds even longer is the fact that the proposals — some of which cleared a procedural hurdle this week when a state panel approved their ballot verbiage — would be constitutional amendments. That means they’re subject to a new, tougher standard passed by the state’s voters: Proponents must gather signatures in each of the Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts, and if they make the ballot, their measure would need the support of 55 percent of ballots cast rather than a simple majority in order to pass.

Meaning, they have to get something closer to a mandate. Squeaking by with a 1-point margin on Election Day won’t do. Neither will staking out the five busiest grocery stores in metro Denver and stalking shoppers to their cars until they relent and sign a petition. They actually have to pitch their proposal to voters across the state.

That’s the simplified version. Read Garcia’s full report — here’s the link again — for more detail as well as his characteristic, nuanced insights. Garcia even talks to an education-reform advocate who thinks more money isn’t the top priority in beefing up our schools.

At any rate, if you’ve been hoping for a chance to help boost education funding, sit tight; petition circulators just might be coming your way. Even if you live in Mancos.

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