August 11, 2013 Updated: August 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm
This November, Colorado voters will likely be asked to approve a $1 billion a-year tax increase to fund SB13-213, the New Public School Finance Act. Proponents are asking for this increase despite the $1.1 billion surplus in the State Education Fund. This tax increase is billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform K-12 education. But don't be fooled - this costly initiative will not provide the levels of reform proponents are promising.
As a new father, I want a brighter future for all Colorado children; however, this proposal is not the way to achieve that.
The untold story is, should this measure be passed, voters in almost half of all Colorado school districts will be forced to pass additional local mill levy tax increases or face penalties under the New Public School Finance Act. Essentially, if voters pass the first tax increase, Coloradans in these school districts will face additional tax increases mandated above and beyond the $1 billion annually.
Furthermore, this new formula disproportionately benefits only a handful of districts in the Denver metro area that will receive drastically higher per-pupil funding. Proponents talk about equitable funding, but how is this fair?
Not to mention that SB213 specifically provides $441 per student will be spent on "staff support and professional development" - this is simply code for putting more money towards bureaucracy and not into the classroom. It is important to note that this is not a one-time requirement; in reality, this nonclassroom spending will likely increase over time.
The proponents claim that this tax hike is necessary to implement reform is simply false. The only real change that SB213 makes is in how schools perform their student count - which I might add, can be accomplished without a tax increase.
Every day I hear parents express concern that class sizes are too big for successful and meaningful learning. However, nothing in SB213 guarantees that class sizes will be reduced, that more money will go directly to the classroom, or that accountability will be ensured for our kids. This system offers nothing new; just more of the same, but at a much higher cost to Coloradans.
Reform within our state's education system is possible, but it requires careful consideration and evaluation. Education is constantly evolving; there is no all-encompassing one-time fix which SB213 pretends to do. As an alternative, we must work directly with teachers, students, and parents to identify individual and meaningful reform measures that bring more money to the classrooms, reduce class sizes, create accountability where it's needed, and make the system more transparent.
Giving our kids the education they deserve is the most important thing we can do. However, asking Colorado's hardworking families to give up an additional $1 billion a year to fund a system that does not address the needs of students, teachers, and parents is not the way to proceed.
Instead, let's work together to identify true reform initiatives that will have a lasting positive impact and produce real results.
Dan Nordberg represents
Colorado House District 14.