Jobs bill’s teacher grants come with strings attached
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The president’s jobs bill waves a $30 billion education carrot for teacher funding, but to get it, state lawmakers would have to spend the same amount of money for the next two years as they did last year.
Toward that end, Colorado voters are deciding the fate of Proposition 103, a five-year statewide property tax and sales tax increase designed to hold the line on education funding, says Rollie Heath, one of the measure’s authors.
Nope, says Adam Dunstone with the Vote Yes on 103 campaign.
“Absolutely no conspiracy theory. It’s safe to say that the White House doesn’t consult Sen. Heath when writing their national bills,” Dunstone said.
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The Colorado Education Association, the state teachers union, is actively campaigning for Proposition 103.
“We came on as a partner in this coalition, supporting the 142,000 people who signed the petition to put it on the ballot,” Mike Wetzel with the Colorado Education Association.
The jobs bill’s money for teachers and school building projects comes with some strings attached, the text of the bill says.
Under Subsection 209 under Maintenance of Effort, the bill says:
The secretary of education shall allocate funding to states only if:
• The states spends as much money on per pupil funding in 2012 as it did in 2011.
• The state maintains the percentage of money it spends on education from its total budget.
• It has to maintain those spending levels in 2013.
“Education spending has been on a downward spiral for the last 10 years, especially the last couple when we saw cuts of $260 million two years ago and $220 million last year,” Wetzel said.
It might not be the last, Wetzel said.
“We’re looking at another big cut when Gov. Hickenlooper comes out with his budget in the next couple weeks.”
Proposition 103, as well as ballot measures in Eagle County and elsewhere around the state are, as with most political campaigns, largely supported by people who stand to gain something by it.
According to the Colorado Secreatary of State’s office, Proposition 103 funding shakes out like this:
• Pueblo Education Association: $6,000.
• Boulder Valley Education Association: $3,701.45.
• Colorado Federation of Teachers: $4,000.
• The Community Foundation: $10,000.
• Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association: $24,500.
• But the biggest Proposition 103 supporter by far, at $100,000, is the Gary-Williams Company, the primary funder of the Piton Foundation. The total pro-103 war chest is almost $175,000, campaign finance reports show.
• Heath kicked in $10,000 of his own, reports show.
Contributions totaled $173,765. Of that, $131,000, was spent on political consultant Samuel F. Lopez.
At the other end of that campaign finance spectrum is Too Taxing for Colorado, Proposition 103’s organized opposition. They had raised $677 and spent $306 of it creating a website.