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In November, Coloradans will vote on funding education reform through an income-tax increase. Amendment 66 would raise an excess of $950 million – the money necessary to carry out an act reforming preschool-grade 12 that was passed by the state legislature earlier this year.
Colorado Commits to Kids, an advocacy group for Amendment 66, estimates that the amendment would cost the average Colorado family $133 each year. The funds would be locked in for educational use under Colorado’s new State Education Achievement Fund. Supporters say that at the top of the list for the tax dollars is reducing class sizes, providing students more individualized attention and allocating more resources to underfunded areas in schools like special education.
Though they may concede the state education system is underfunded, many Coloradans are hesitant to vote “yes” on another tax hike. Memories of the recent recession linger and even the smallest increase could prove burdensome for some families.
Coloradans for Real Education Reform, an issue committee fighting Amendment 66, says that the education tax and corresponding act is “bad for our children, for our teachers, and for Colorado’s families.”
Though the group agrees Colorado is in need of education reform, members argue that Amendment 66 allocates too much money toward administration and unions, opposed to directly benefiting the students in classrooms. Opponents also say that Amendment 66 is also bad for higher education, as it will make it difficult to pass future tax-increases that would benefit education after high school.
Jon Caldara, president of the Denver think tank Independence Institute and parent, said he will vote “no” on Amendment 66 come November.
“One of my biggest objections as someone who has two kids in the Boulder Valley School District, one of whom is special needs with Down syndrome, is that there is nothing to guarantee that this money is going into classrooms,” Caldara said.
Caldara said that Boulder Valley School District will be one of the “big losers” if Amendment 66 is approved.
“Boulder schools will only get back about 50 cents for every new dollar that Boulder taxpayers would pay,” he said.
Angelika Schroeder, a representative on Colorado’s Board of Education and a supporter of Amendment 66, said that schools would receive funding primarily on need basis, so not every school will receive the same dollar amount.
“There is a piece of this that is about the haves and the have-nots in Colorado, as painful as that is,” Schroeder said.
Although people in wealthy school districts may not agree with that system, Schroeder said approving Amendment 66 is critical for the entire state.
“You don’t want to think about what will happen if this doesn’t happen,” Schroeder said. “The districts just cannot do more with nothing.”
New Era Colorado has been engaging voters on the phone to provide information on the ballot item. CU students may have already seen the group on campus in bright-blue T-shirts.
“We call voters to educate them on Amendment 66, and we will also be doing door knocking, so we go door-to-door to talk to people about Amendment 66,” said Molly Fitzpatrick, New Era’s Boulder organizing director.
Senior geography major and aspiring high school teacher Crockett Williams, 22, decided to register to vote solely because of Amendment 66. Williams went to school in New Castle, a small mountain town in Colorado where he said students feel the impact of a school district scarce with resources.
“I went to a high school that had one text book for every three kids in most of the departments,” Williams said. ”Not to mention they were like five to 10 years out of date. If we want successful children or a successful family and even a successful generation after ours, we have to take some responsibility for making our state’s education system stronger, more efficient and more inspiring.”
He believes that the approval of Amendment 66 will allow him as a teacher to be able to reach his students on a more personal level. For Williams, smaller class sizes is the single-most important reform that Amendment 66 will work to achieve.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jordan Mathews at Jordan.firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter/Jordan_MMathews.