November 3, 2013 Updated: November 3, 2013 at 10:05 am
I support Amendment 66. Colorado is investing less in our students' education today than we did in 2006. Districts work hard to attract and retain quality teachers, keep up with technology, implement new standards, and meet the needs of an increasing at-risk population of students.
Meanwhile, costs for things like utilities, fuel, and health care are increasing dramatically- and districts still must balance their budgets. Deep cuts have been made in areas that hurt students. We need more resources and opportunities for students, not fewer.
Most people don't know that in 2005 the Legislature, not voters, reduced Colorado's taxable income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.63 percent. Amendment 66 would simply restore that 5 percent rate (5.9 percent on any additional taxable income over $75,000). This will allow implementation of the new School Finance Act, the first new funding formula since 1994. The improvements in the Act base funding upon the cost of educating students rather than on district size, location, or the Denver-Boulder CPI, but this only happens if Amendment 66 passes.
Colorado's increased at-risk student population requires additional investment in instruction and student services.
Local districts have been struggling to keep up with rising costs, maintenance backlogs, and capital needs by passing local bonds and mill levy increases, but many districts haven't been successful - nor could they generate anything close to the revenue needed, even if they maxed out their mills.
Finally, Amendment 66 improves accountability: it requires an annual audit of the use of the increased revenue.
Districts will then be able to implement the reforms, and the associated accountability, of recent legislation - SB260 READ, SB212 Cap4K, SB191 Educator Effectiveness, and SB163 Accreditation - along with targeting resources to those students who need them most. We owe all our children a first-rate education. That means we need to fund it fully.
We should care about all students in Colorado not just because the constitution requires a "thorough and uniform" education system, but also because district boundaries are now blurred by school choice. Tomorrow "my" students may be "your" students.
Jan Tanner serves as president of the D11 School Board and is the president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Boards.
Andrea Van Nort's response to Tanner:
The complexities, hidden rake-offs, and lack of accountabilities in Amendment 66 are so confounding that, as Nancy Pelosi once infamously said, "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it." Let's not do that.
As a professional educator, I know there are many ways to improve education; most don't require spending more money. Worse, there is an imminent risk of an ugly lawsuit should 66 pass, with unions pressuring the various districts for a cut.
Our litigious society functions this way, and 66's backers know this, which is why they have tossed their hat in the fray.