Our View: Vote 'no' on Proposition 103


Election 2011

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

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Proposition 103 proposes a statewide increase to income tax and sales tax rates but fails to specify how $2.9 billion in new revenue for public education will be allocated. Absent that accountability, and without a clear line from increased education spending to improved student achievement, voters should reject Proposition 103.

The ballot issue, proposed by Boulder state Sen. Rollie Heath, a Democrat, seeks to address cuts in education spending at the state level brought on by Colorado’s budget crises of the past few years. The state’s fiscal woes and how that impacts public education funding is complicated further by the dueling nature of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Amendment 23. TABOR limits the amount of revenue the state can collect and spend each year while Amendment 23 mandates increased annual spending on K-12 education.

The result has been slashed higher education spending — and increased tuition costs at colleges and universities across the state — as well as dramatically reduced budgets for state departments such as transportation. And K-12 spending hardly has been saved by cuts elsewhere. Even with Amendment 23, public school districts across Colorado, and including our three districts in Routt County, have been forced to make sizeable budget cuts in recent years.

So along comes Proposition 103, which would raise the state sales and use tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3 percent and the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent for a period of five years. The resulting revenue, estimated to be $2.9 billion over the life of the tax increase, would be spent on education programs from preschool through higher education, referred to as P-20.

But that’s about as specific as Proposition 103 gets in terms of how billions in taxpayer money will be spent. Instead of identifying programs and priorities, the measure simply leaves it in the hands of state lawmakers to decide how to spend the money. There’s no guarantee the revenue will be distributed evenly among school districts across the state, or even that all districts will get money at all. And if the money does get to districts like Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt, how will the money be spent? On salaries and benefits for staff? On technology in classrooms? On previously cut programs? We don’t know, and neither does anyone else.

Supporters of Proposition 103 say it’s a Band-Aid that will keep public education funding at current levels while the state works at larger budgetary reform. We won’t hold our breath. But maybe rejecting a statewide tax increase that provides no accountability for how the money will be spent would send a much stronger and clearer message to lawmakers that our education system, including how we fund it, needs to be reformed, and soon.

Vote “no” on Proposition 103.


Ben Beall 5 years, 6 months ago

Education is the single greatest investment in the future. Colorado is lucky to be such a great place to live; as we are gifted educated minds and entrepreneurial spirit from elsewhere. It's time for us to help our beleaguered state education system. Your opposition seems to stem from an empty fear of wondering where the money will go, but specifically defining where money goes ties the hands of state lawmakers and local educators. Accountability is provided every 2 to 4 years when we vote for our elected officials at the state and local level.

Paying taxes sucks; paying taxes for kids doesn't.


Sandra Sharp 5 years, 6 months ago

Ben, there are other funding options available. These options designate exactly where and how the funds generated will be spent. I support education, but prop 103 will limit our educational system from a future funding, funding which does not allow for the multiple interpretations in 103.
I support paying taxes for our kids.....prop 103 will not accomplish this. Prop 103 is just not a wise investment....let's make a wise investment in our students future. Thanks for your comments! Sandy Sharp


sledneck 5 years, 6 months ago

What politicians love to do is spend "the kids" money like a drunken sailor on everything under the sun (emerald mts, bike trails, iron horses) and then come home hungover asking the strapped taxpayers for more money "for the children". It's always "for the children".

They HAD money for the kids and they blew it on a sack full of beans. Ever read "Jack and the Beanstalk", Ben????? He was sent to buy meaningful supplies and came home with "magic" beans. Only in the fairy-tale will the beans grow into a magic beanstalk with a golden-egg-laying goose at the top. In real life we are just out our kids' education money and THERE ARE NO GOLDEN EGGS.


Rich Hall 5 years, 6 months ago

Ben, as a tax-payer, I take offense at your suggestion that we "begin" to support our education system. Here in Colorado, we spend around $10,700 per child for education purposes and in Routt County, we have a 13 to 1 teacher to student ratio. Teacher's salaries average around $48,000 per year plus benefits. I don't think support is an issue.

The schools have been given the tools they need. Now, get the job done.


JusWondering 5 years, 6 months ago

Ben, Ben, Ben. I get so sick of the "its for the kids" mentality. My opposition does not come from a "where does the money go" mentality but more of a "what is the incremental benefit". Our kids are not poorly educated!

Using US Census estimates there are approximately 1.34 million of our 4.84 million residents that are currently of or will be school age (age 0-19). If you can tell me how increasing per student funding (assuming the entire population which is a gross over estimate) by $2,170 per student is going to directly show an increase in Colorado revenue from business relocations, or increased tourist spending I would be for it. Heck, I would even be for it if we were even able to show a 25% increase in ACT scores. Funding in the past has not yielded even incremental increases in performance nor has it been a reason any large employer has moved jobs to Colorado.

Looking at today's numbers (again using US Census Data) we spend $8,718 per student for an average ACT score of 20.6. Utah spends an average of $6,356 for an average ACT score of 21.8, You are asking for a 25% increase. Where is my 25% incremental increase in benefit in test scores or revenue into MY State. Why is it that other states can yield better results with less per student expenditure? Until the proportion of spending for instruction increases I am for no more increase in spending. Learn how to spend your money correctly educators! We spend $.38 of every education dollar on support services; not instruction. In Utah, as an example, they spend a proportion of 29%. The total $$ investment is not the only thing that should be looked at.

If you are going to use the word "investment" to describe education then you better be able to show a rate of return. No "investor" in the world would dump money into something with such a poor rate of return when there are alternatives that yield a far better result... and this does not take into consideration anything as polarizing as vouchers or private school results versus expenditures per student.

http://www.publicagenda.org/charts/state-state-sat-and-act-scores http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/09f33pub.pdf


JusWondering 5 years, 6 months ago

Even North Carolina (who has similar demographics and funding) has better college entrance test performance than we do... perhaps the question is not how much to spend, but how what we spend should be spent?


Krista Monger 5 years, 6 months ago

JusWondering - I'm not sure which entrance exam you speak of, but if it is the ACT, I wanted to point out a flaw in your logic. Colorado is only one of 6 states that require ALL high school students to take the ACT, even those who do not plan on going to college. So if you wish to compare us to a similar demographic, find one of those other 4 states. Even so, Colorado's 2010 data is about even with the national average.

If you are speaking of the SAT, that's a truer picture. Look at the scores mentioned at the site in your post above, we have much stronger scores than North Carolina. We beat their scores in math, reading, and writing by at least 60 points in each category, and are above the national average.

So please, before you start complaining about how bad colorado is doing with your investment dollars, perhaps you should COMPLETELY research the statistics you use to back up your claim. Statistics don't lie, only statisticians.


JusWondering 5 years, 6 months ago

kmm... you missed my point completely. I AM NOT COMPLAINING HOW BAD COLORADO IS DOING! Colorado is holding its own.

I am stating that if administrators want more money in education show how it is going be worth the extra investment! Every election cycle administrators come to the trough expecting more feed from the voters without showing a result for what we gave them last time... all with the "its for the kids" message. Stop telling me we spend less on education per student than most other states... who cares!

And as far as an entrance exam goes; it was an anectdotal example of one exam that is used and two States... I don't care, pick a State and an exam. The overall result does not change when you scatter plot them. Extra dollars in education does not porportionally correlate to: 1.) greater employment for residents or 2) higher college entrance exam test scores. I have done more research on the topic. It is a question of efficiency!

Kmm writes "We beat their scores in math, reading, and writing by at least 60 points in each category, and are above the national average." Exactly! Why do we need more spending on education? Are we going to beat them on the SAT by 75 points and be well above the national average? Are we going to see 2 - 3 more Fortune 500 companies move their headquarters to Colorado? Are we going to see our unemployment rate fall by 25%? What is the economic benefit here other than the qualitative "we will have better education"?!


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