According to a report from EdNews Colorado, state Democrats will push for a $1 billion tax increase to help fund Colorado’s underfunded education system. It’s a complicated plan from Democratic Sens. Rollie Heath, of Boulder, and Mike Johnston, of Denver. But essentially it’ll be an attempt to reform the state’s school finance formula, and jack up taxes to pay for the change.
Any tax increase, however, would have to go before the voters, so nothing is certain. To get the measure onto the ballot, the senators (and/or other backers) would have to petition on, or two-thirds of the state Legislature would have to vote to refer the measure to the ballot. And getting any Capitol Republicans to support a tax increase is a pretty lofty goal.
In recent years education reform legislation and school budget cuts have focused attention on the stresses facing Colorado’s education system. Supporters of reform and more funding think the timing is right to accomplish both goals because of public concern about budget cuts, the improving economy, strong voter support for local school tax increases this year and Democratic control of the state legislature.
And some of those involved in the discussions believe a 2013 school-funding solution should be followed in 2014 by what’s the called the “big fix” – a proposal to straighten out the conflicting provisions of the state constitution that hamstring the legislature’s ability to raise revenue.
The plan faces plenty of challenges before it gets to the final test of a public vote on higher taxes. While there’s broad agreement among many education interest groups on the need for reform, disagreements may emerge after specific provisions of the plan are crafted. Supporters also will face the challenge of raising money to gather petition signatures and run an expensive campaign.
And the Colorado Supreme Court could rule on school finance in the middle of everything else, adding a new complication. A district court judge last year found the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional. The case, Lobato v. State, now is on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court, and a decision is expected next spring.
But I really can’t explain all of it, since it’s a headache of a plan, because I haven’t done the research EdNews has. So I suggest just checking their story out. And anyone who wants to keep up on state education policy news, follow EdNews.