Hardly perfect, Amendment 66 still is well worth the investment to fund reforms in Colorado education.
Continuing to starve the child to help her grow makes even less sense than the current Party of No’s tired refrain about throwing money at problems, as if that were the only answer, ever.
And Colorado is well enough on the road to recovery, albeit haltingly, for prudent measures to invest in our future quality of life and economy through educational improvement now. This is the time for prudent spending.
There is a cost with approving nearly a billion dollar increase in our state income taxes to fund a package of reforms that passed a year ago and now require funding to put them into play.
These reforms would increase accountability for achievement among teaching staffs, transparency of spending, development of best practices and more focused attention on not only students with a variety of special needs but also on our “normal” children who currently must come second to mandates without funding to focus on the kids who need more help.
The best solution for healing what ails Colorado’s primary school system is statewide. District by district patchwork tax increases cannot Band-Aid over the reforms needed across the state for Colorado to move from one of the lowest-funded states that makes the most of scarce dollars to efficient use of middle-of-the-pack funding.
We’re not talking New York-level funding here, after all, or their tax burden.
Conservative critics have a point with complaints about supporters selling 66 to the public with advertisements that suggest we’ll each spend only 36 cents a day or $133 a year for all these improvements. While tied factually, if tenuously, to the mythical median income taxpayer, the investment in state income tax for most of us will be several hundred dollars more than we pay today.
That boogeyman, the troubled Public Employees Retirement Account, is not in play as the secret beneficiary of some conspiracy for Amendment 66 to save this fund for retirees rather than sound investment in the future through better education.
The state Legislature would be able to adjust income thresholds according to inflation to maintain at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue going to education.
That’s a conservative criticism that bears consideration, although state Sen. Michael Johnston, a Vail native, pointed out in a column this week that this means tax rates could go down as well as up. Yes, presumably he wrote this with a straight face, and there is ample precedence of the fact of it in this state — with income tax rates.
Colorado once had multiple tiers of progressions of rates, and we had a tiered set of rates totaling 10 percent as recently as the 1980s. The top rate sought in 66 is 5.9 percent. Yes, that’s an increase over the flat 4.63 percent for everyone, but not quite draconian.
The price of our state pursuing reforms that aim to regain America’s standing in education among the world is not free, and not pennies for most taxpayers. There is shared sacrifice to provide the investment.
The question is whether the cost is worth the potential gains. Ultimately, we’re convinced the answer is yes. Amendment 66 merits passage.