Amendment 66 in Colorado
This November, Colorado voters will be asked to vote on a measure that will increase taxes by close to $1 billion per year to benefit schools. I have two school age children and their education is very important to me so I have given considerable effort to finding out more about this piece of legislation. On the one hand, I would love to see improvement in our state's education system. On the other hand I want to know exactly where that money is going and how it will improve their education. Reading over the actual language in the amendment, it does a great job of explaining how the funds will be raised. However, it is very vague on how the money will be spent.
The Pro Argument for Amendment 66
The proponents for the Amendment are arguing that this money will go toward reducing the class sizes, updating technology and textbooks, and enhancing programs. Their position is that CO has seen over a billion dollars in budget cuts and this has put the state far behind other states in educational spending per child.
They claim transparency by stating that "Funds raised by the Colorado Commits to Kids Initiative will help build a website that will allow parents and taxpayers to track every school’s expenditures." This of coarse would be set up after the measure is already in place.
The proponent website also claims that there will be accountability. Here there will be evaluations of their spending and it's results. This would be sort of a self regulation procedure. It does not mention any penalties or consequences for poor performing programs.
The Con Argument
The problem with this amendment is that it goes into great detail on how they will raise the funds, but lacks any external spending controls. There is no official listing of how this money will be distributed. They plan to tell voters how it is being spent after the money is already approved and in their hands. There is no guarantee that it will improve our children's education.
Also, as stated by Mike Rosen of the Denver Post, "The connection between school spending and performance is flimsy. Low-spending states, like Utah, produce great results; Washington, D.C., spends the most and does the worst." This comes down to how the money is spent. Giving over the money with no regard to spending controls is not a very good idea for any government organization.
Con Editorial by the Denver Post
- Rosen: Reasons to nix Amendment 66 - The Denver Post
Gov. John Hickenlooper puts the tab of road and bridge repairs following our 2013 flood at $500 million or more.
Full Text of the Amendment
As you can see from the full text, this Amendment raises a great deal of money that will become discretionary spending that will require no other voter approval. It does not list any of the improvements that the proponents claim. We are expected to take the word of the educators that this money will be spent correctly. This is a very large sum to give up without having any kind of regulation or voter approval. I am for improving our education system, but I want a larger say in how that money is spent. I think it would be better to either specifically list how the money will be divided or split the amounts up over several programs and we as voters can vote on each individual program as we see fit. That way we can make a better determination on our stance.
On the other hand, the increase in taxes would only be about $133 per family per year (if your income is less than $75,000/year). So if it was spent right this would be very beneficial. It all depends on how much you trust the teacher's unions and educational institutions.
As always, I invite you to do your own research as well. My only goal is to ensure there are more informed voters making decisions at voting time.
© 2013 Eric Niehoff