Dear Editor:

The second “editorial” in last week’s SUN following Duane Branson’s Letter to the Editor was only slightly less disingenuous than the ads for Amendment 66.

The Blue Book shows that the 13 year average for school funding through 2013 is a 46 percent share of state revenue. Other data from the Colorado Department of Education of the 10-year trend in school revenues and spending shows that even after the recession, total spending grew by 10 percent per student.

When Amend66 mandates the state school education fund “shall, at a minimum, receive 43% of state revenue collected in the general fund …” it locks almost half of Colorado’s general fund into a single service, K-12 education, before funding law enforcement, infrastructure repairs, elderly services, universities, community colleges, disaster relief, parks, environment, etc. Elected legislators’ authority to appropriate state funds are significantly limited by restricting the legislature’s ability to allocate resources. When things start to fall apart, they will be back for more money.

Nothing in Amend66 provides money to kindergarten, preschool programs, or any other programs. Amend66 provides that the money be appropriated to benefit the education of public P-12 students, “by implementing educational reforms and programmatic enhancements enacted by the Colorado General Assembly,” so whatever bills the Assembly passes get funded with this money as long as they are about “education.” Currently, this means the 140-plus confusing pages of SB213, until the Assembly makes changes in next year’s session. Our district’s allocation for P&K could double, but all that goes into the general fund to be spent as the district determines. Currently, five kindergarten classes are funded at the elementary school and some flow-through funds are provided to Head Start and Seeds, but none of this is required and it could be changed at will.

Amend66 also gives the General Assembly the authority to adjust the income tax increase thresholds annually for inflation. That means a couple of years down the road, everyone who makes over $50,000 could be in the 5.9 percent bracket. Maybe, if they really need money, they would just reduce the threshold to $1 and we’d all be in the high bracket. No one knows how they will manipulate their authority. When have politicians ever resisted the opportunity to get more of our money?

Analyzing the Legislature’s Final Fiscal Note on SB213 and focusing on the eight counties and 15 school districts in Senate District 6, if SB213 is implemented by Amend66, 13 of the 15 school districts will be expected to raise their local contribution via a mill levy increase to fully fund the total program in order to get the full funding from the state. Five of the 15 school districts will receive less money per pupil than under the current funding formula if they do not raise their mill levy. At their September meeting, the Ignacio School Board voted not to support Amend66.

There is no guarantee any portion of this tax increase will reach the classroom.

There are no reforms in Amend66 or SB213 to reduce administration, add teachers, reduce class size, improve test scores or tie funding to performance. There are no metrics to measure student or teacher achievement.

Jim Huffman

This story was posted on October 24, 2013.