Colorado School Reform Will Make Ballot

The author of SB-213, Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), said he is confident Initiative 22 to reform school financing will make the fall ballot. Colorado Commits To Kids, the issues committee that will promote the initiative, turned in its petitions on Aug. 5.

Chad McWhinney convened a group of Northern Colorado business representatives to meet with Sen. Johnston recently. McWhinney is an advocate for education and the current chair of Teach for America Colorado region (http://www.teachforamerica.org). Teach For America (TFA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach” for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Sen. Johnston says the initiative will reform Colorado K-12 funding in three key areas: the funding formula, key investments and accountability. Currently state funding is determined by a student count on October 1 of each year so there is no incentive for schools to keep children in school after that date.  By changing to an average daily membership count, he argues, schools will see parents and children as clients because it is to their advantage to keep as many students as possible in school all year long. Key investments in areas such as early childhood learning, special education, gifted and talented programs will also improve student learning. Johnston says the initiative will make Colorado the only state in the country with 100 percent taxpayer transparency. The money raised by the increase in income tax can only be used for the specific items included in the ballot language.

This proposal is extremely complex. It will be a huge challenge to educate voters and convince them to approve an income tax increase now, when the economic recovery is just beginning. Johnston argues the 2-tiered income tax formula will not hurt the State’s economic development program as much as a single flax tax increase although not everyone in Colorado’s business community agrees with his assessment.

More information is available now on the Senator’s website: www.mikejohnston.org and will be available shortly on the campaign’s website: www.ColoradoCommitsToKids.com. Compass Colorado, a nonprofit organization that says it is working to “bring common sense fiscal responsibility to all levels of government” opposes the measure. Its position is available at www.compasscolorado.org

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