Amendment 66, Ben DeGrow, Education, Taxes

Rather than Amendment 66, how about some real reform?

Today the Denver Post gave a lukewarm endorsement to Amendment 66, the billion-dollar statewide education tax increase on Coloradans’ ballots this month. The editors argue that voters should swallow the massive tax hike because of a few positive changes that could be enacted for far less with existing funds. They also claimed “every single district will come out ahead,” even though nonpartisan legislative analysts identified 20 school districts that will end up with fewer dollars per student.

Another suspect assertion tries to give the proposal some genuine reform bona fides. “Colorado would become the first state to insist that charters share equally in local tax hikes,” the Post says, overstating the case. Senate Bill 213, which would go into effect with the billion-dollar tax increase, requires districts and charter schools to negotiate over how mill levy dollars might be shared. There is no guarantee. The bill merely gives charter schools the opportunity to sign up with the state authorizer if their local district doesn’t negotiate in good faith.

While the state’s largest newspaper tries to get Amendment 66 to set sail, real reforms that could benefit students without costing extra money are left to sit in dry dock. Instead of raising taxes on families and small businesses across Colorado, why not allow them to donate a portion of their tax liability to nonprofit organizations that give K-12 private tuition scholarships to students in need?

This 3-minute video from Colorado Kids Win shows real stories of those who have benefited, in some cases experiencing a life-changing opportunity, by receiving an available scholarship and choosing a new school:

The problem is that each year many Colorado kids’ scholarship applications go unfulfilled, because there aren’t enough funds available to help. If Colorado followed the lead of 13 other states and issued a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to K-12 scholarship organizations, many real boys and girls could find a school that suits them better, just like our imaginary Isabella:

As the video points out, not only would many low- and middle-income kids across Colorado come out ahead. Not only would more individuals and businesses gain the reward of helping open new doors through the critical tuition support that nonprofit scholarship organizations can provide. But the state would actually save money, because the scholarships would cost less than the state’s per-pupil spending.

Colorado voters this year will have a chance to make known their views about the Amendment 66 tax hike. Then they can ask their state legislators what Colorado will do to provide students and families with real reforms: like K-12 scholarship tax credits.

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