Diane Mitsch Bush: Support Amendment 66

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The first question I ask on any bill that comes before the Colorado House of Representatives is: How will it affect my constituents in Routt and Eagle counties?

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Diane Mitsch Bush

I get answers by carefully reviewing all materials presented by both sides and asking questions of proponents and opponents. Then I request more data from staff.

When Senate Bill 13-213, the Future School Finance Act, arrived on the House floor in April, I delved deeply into the data and concluded that the bill and the ballot initiative derived from it, now called Amendment 66, would benefit children, parents, teachers and our communities in Eagle and Routt counties while making our state more attractive to new and existing businesses. It moves us closer to a fiscally sustainable public education system where all children have an opportunity to succeed and flourish, regardless of their parents’ Zip code.

Amendment 66 is a sound investment in our children’s future and our economy, locally and statewide. It provides:

■ Increased per-pupil revenue over the current 1990’s state funding formula for Steamboat by $353 per year, for Hayden by $522, for Soroco by $375.

■ Investment in preschool, full-day kindergarten, special-needs, at-risk and talented-and-gifted students and locally controlled innovation at the district, school and classroom levels.

■ Predictable, sustainable funding for public schools, including charter schools.

■ An unprecedented level of accountability and transparency down to the actual classroom level, requiring rigorous, detailed posting on a public website of data on teacher proficiency, student achievement and level of program success.

■ Funded requirements to replace the unfunded mandates now in effect for school and teacher accountability.

■ Funded emphasis on making sure students graduate from high school and are fully prepared for success in higher education and the workplace.

■ A step toward solving our state’s structural budget imbalance.

Until 1987, Colorado had a graduated income tax. In 1987, it became a flat

5 percent. In 2000, the rate was decreased to the current 4.63 percent flat rate. If Amendment 66 passes, the new income tax rate will be 5 percent again for income as much as $75,000, then 5.9 percent on income greater than $75,000.

Reports of Amendment 66’s impact on Coloradans’ checkbooks have been wildly exaggerated. The Blue Book, page 5, gives reality-based estimates of what the dollar and percent increase would be under Amendment 66 at various levels of gross income. For households at the Colorado median income level of $57,000, the investment would be $133 annually. That’s $11.08 per month.

At Steamboat Springs median household income of $64,885, the tax increase would be $150 annually under the proposed formula, or $12.50 per month.

I take very seriously every penny of our state’s tax dollars, and if Amendment 66 weren’t such a wise investment, I wouldn’t support it. I feel strongly that Amendment 66 is a small price to pay for a stable education system that will reap big dividends for our community’s and our state’s prosperity.

Moreover, if we don’t pay now, we’ll have to pay more later. The University of Denver’s “Financing Colorado’s Future” report (www.du.edu/economicfuture) finds that “our system for funding K-12 education is failing the state.” The report estimates that by 2024, we will have a

$3 billion shortfall in our state general fund even if we eliminate state support for all programs other than education, Medicaid and the prison system.

We can’t continue to leave our education system vulnerable to severe budget cuts.

According to the September economic forecast the Legislature just received, Colorado may hit TABOR limits within two years, requiring the state to refund revenues to individual taxpayers. If Amendment 66 does not pass and the state hits its TABOR limits, the state share to SSRE2 and all districts will decrease from the current formula.

Passage of Amendment 66 will benefit all our children, our communities and our state and local economies by providing equal opportunity for high-quality, innovative P-12 education, attracting new businesses and jobs to our state and helping to create a 21st century workforce so Colorado can better compete in the global economy.

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush’s House District 26 includes Routt and Eagle counties. She has lived in Steamboat Springs since 1976.

Comments

jerry carlton 11 months, 1 week ago

Interesting how SSB school board does not support this. Whose interests is DMB supporting? Could it be hers for a bigger political career?

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Mark Ruckman 11 months, 1 week ago

Bring a bill that doesn't just ask for more $, but also addresses the problems such tenure the teacher union making it difficult to fire under performing teachers.

While some teachers are great, growing up I had share of teachers with tenure who milked the pay check vs. being engaged. I'm also aware of situations where the union makes it difficult to get rid of bad teacher. Both of these situations are costing education $ and poor results by students.

Until the politicians are ready to square off with the teacher union, why should the public keep throwing money at problems that are not going to be fixed? My Vote is No on 66.

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Michael Bird 11 months, 1 week ago

The cart before the horse ? According to the U of Denver "our system for funding K-12 education is failing the State " but could it be that the K-12 education system is failing the funding system ( the taxpayers ) ? When have significant funding increases proportionally increased the education of Colorado students ? We still are behind too many other countries even with increased spending. Maybe the problem is with the system. Maybe tenure should be totally eliminated and competition introduce for teaching positions. Maybe extensive independent expense reduction studies should be performed. Maybe salary schedules should be modified so that good science teachers are paid at a much higher level than other teachers. Same with math & computer science teachers. We cannot change the lack of parental involvment through funding but the educational system can and should be changed.. Money may not be the answer but change certainly is.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

The TV ads supporting this are so misleading that it makes it hard to vote for it. If the proponents doubt that an honest ad would generate support then it probably isn't a good idea. The ads act as if it is an insurgent bill against the education establishment when, in fact, it was written by the education establishment.

In truth, this is an awful lot more money with very little accountability. There is nothing in here that would pressure Hayden schools to actually do something about high school math instruction where Hayden has half as many proficient students as the state average. Test scores do not create accountability. Accountability means consequences for under performing schools. Such as requiring under performing schools show that they have since adopted the same programs as superior performing schools.

For instance, Hayden schools should lose a chunk of their state funding as long as they under perform and they refuse to take simple steps such as having enough instructional days to cover their course materials.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months ago

At close to a BILLION dollars per year (first year, more thereafter) Amendment 66 is a very very expensive program with no guarantee of results. Even if every student effected went on to be Rhodes Scholars I sincerely doubt the results would be worth the investment. And I'm equally sure that, over time, more and more of the funds raised would be syphoned off by bureaucracy to line someone's pocket. Prop AA (Pot Tax) claims the first 44 million raised in taxes will go to school construction.....we'll see. I heard this with the Lottery and legalized gambling, check where that money now goes. Lets be realistic.....Amendment 66 is a Democratic Party Dream funded by OPM (other people's money). The solution to the need for more revenues is building a better business environment.......doing away with expensive unnecessary regulation.And the solution to more funds available to schools is a setting of the State's priorities to reflect that by way of the budget.

As for Representative Bush's self serving statements that she seriously reviews each and every State Bill and does her due dilligence I have to raise the "Poppy Cock" flag on this one too. SB-252, the forcing of increased renewable energy standards on rural Colorado was nothing more than a political ploy to generate jobs in a Democratic District and carefuly targeted to mostly affect Republican Districts. No engineer or person/group involved in energy production (save the wind farm industry) thought it would work within the present laws. Even the Govenor's own Energy Advisory Council has now said that the law can not be met without sending tens of millions of Colorado Dollars to other States in order to purchse Renewable Energy Credits. Not one job, save new Government Regulators, will be created in Colorado in the near future. And who out there can tell me that limiting a new gun's magazine to 15 rounds or requiring expensive and hard to obtain background checks on private sales of guns will result in one less mass murder?

I also liked how, before the flood, Bush toured the State asking what were our most pressing road issues. Going on to say they could be fixed with a new sales tax. Essentially more and bigger Government for a US 40 pedestrian underpass at Elk River Road.Give me a break!

Diane Mitsch Bush lives in a Utopian dream land. And while I share some of her dreams I do not require others to pay for my dreams...... and I wake up occasionally and view reality.

TAX AND SPEND........TAX AND SPEND............TAX AND SPEND

We need real solutions to real problems, not more bureaucracy writing more regulations and lining the pockets of their political supporters and themselves.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

Harvey,

I think the data on a person's lifetime earnings would show that this would be worth it if there were as little as only 10% more high school students graduating with proficient academic skills according to Colorado's standardized tests. Students wouldn't be spending money at college to be brought up to college level. Companies wouldn't have to train employees how to read and write.

The trouble is that this is far more of more money than having anything to force better results.

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jerry carlton 11 months ago

Sounds like 6 to 0 for no. Let us hope this goes down in flames taking DMB with it on her next campaign.

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Dave Moloney 11 months ago

One of the things that I think gets overlooked with 66 is the impact that the 43% constitutional requirement will have on the non-education portion of the State budget. It is hard to predict what events might happen that could create the need to raise additional revenue for other State needs. The recent floods and the damage they caused comes to mind. While reserves may come to the rescue this time, that might not always be the case. If 66 passes, the first 43 cents of every dollar raised will have to go to education, leaving only 57 cents of the dollar remaining. So, if you need to raise a dollar in revenue to repair roads, build a prison, provide critical human services, or give other State workers a raise, you will actually need to raise more like $1.75 to net the $1.00 needed.(57% of $1.75 = $.9975) Fixing a set percentage, in the State Constitution, for any line item, is a seriously flawed approach to budgeting. In the future, this will put a squeeze on every other portion of the State budget and will be difficult to change once it becomes part of the Constitution. Colorado can do better. Vote No on 66!

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

This measure was initially drafted on the expectation that the Colorado Supreme Court was going to rule that educational funding was unconstitutional because of the differences in revenues between school districts. But the court ruled that the current financing is legal even if it has large differences in revenues for different districts.

Part of the "problem" is that families that care about a good education for their children will move to districts with better schools. So poorly performing schools tend to lack the locals willing to take the steps needed to do better. While the good schools are under constant local pressure to do better.

So there is not an urgent need to deal with funding in this election and to accept whatever was proposed. They can propose a better funding bill next time. I think any tax increase for education needs to be to state how it will change education in Hayden so that solid elementary school achievement is not allowed to fall off to well below state levels for high school math achievement.

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Don Thayer 11 months ago

We aren't "investing" in our childrens' futures, we're having our taxes increased. If we pass this, when will we get hit with the NEXT "investment"(tax increase)? And after reading this article, I have very little idea how the state is ACTUALLY going to spend my money. I started school in 1st grade and graduated as an honor student because I applied myself, grades 1-12 worked just fine. Stop manipulating our emotions with the "need" for state funded preschool, kindergarten, and "talented-and-gifted students"(are you kidding?). How does funding all this extra eduction create jobs or attract businesses? Are these businesses that will profit from the school system, therefore the state government, and therefore Colorado taxpayers?

You - meaning the Colorado state government - have already given us unfunded mandates, yet you expect us to trust you with even MORE money?

Sorry, but I'm not impressed with your use of cute terminology such as "sound investment in our children's future", "high-quality, innovative P-12 education", or "21st century workforce". Get your spending under control.

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Kevin Nerney 11 months ago

I'll make it an even dozen but the cynic in me thinks it may still pass. Can do you smell the corruption?

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