Each year Coloradans have an opportunity to weigh in on public policy directly through statewide ballot measures. This year we are being asked to consider Amendment 78 — a measure described as adding transparency to state spending. Let me share with you a real consequence of this measure.
As chair of the Board of Directors of History Colorado, which has been the keeper of our state’s official history since 1879, I am proud to volunteer my support to a valuable asset for everyone in Colorado. This nationally renowned organization is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501©3 nonprofit that serves more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year through our programing.
History Colorado operates eleven museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is the nation’s largest state preservation program. More than 70% of SHF grants, which are economic drivers in communities, are allocated in rural areas of the state.
All of this work fundamentally relies on the so-called custodial funds that Amendment 78 seeks to impact. Diminishing it is one of the many precarious outcomes that Coloradans stand to face if they vote to adopt this amendment, not least because the amendment will hamper the nimble adaptation to Coloradans’ changing needs that is crucial to our services.
I want voters to know what Amendment 78 stands to delay or dismantle by extinguishing this acumen in our division of state government:
Hands-On History is our K–8 history education program that meets the needs of working families when their children are not in school. It is growing as a result of federal funding that would be subject to reallocation under Amendment 78. It supports parents managing four-day school weeks and offers summer camps, after-school programs, and remote-learning support during pandemic-related school closures — all with tuition assistance for those in need.
History Colorado’s Museum of Memory is a community-based public history initiative that provides pathways for community members to reclaim their collective history and develop tools for resilience and cultural healing. The program, which already supports social well-being in nine at-risk communities and neighborhoods throughout Colorado, is expanding in both Denver and southern Colorado thanks to new federal grants. This work allows communities to bond with each other around the stories they share, making meaningful connections about their lives and where they live. It is becoming a national model for collaborative work to reanimate and amplify histories that have long existed only in the margins.
Museums for Digital Learning (MDL) is a new online resource center featuring dynamic digital museum content for K–12 educators searchable by subject and grade. Teachers across the country can now find resources that feature engaging activities from a growing number of museums, all aligned with national education standards. MDL is a collaboration between Newfields of Indianapolis, the Field Museum of Chicago, History Colorado, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funds the project through — you guessed it — federal grants.
These programs and many, many others like them are not dubious or inefficient applications of taxpayer funds. On the contrary, at History Colorado they are keystones of a strategy that nearly doubled revenue while doubling visitation at our El Pueblo History Museum, for example.
These and other aspects of our mission would be jeopardized by Amendment 78. Simply said, it goes too far. I strongly encourage my fellow Colorado voters to vote “no” on Amendment 78.
Tamra Ward is board chair of History Colorado.