Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on Amendment 66 | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on Amendment 66

“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain.”

I’m not sure where that line is that one crosses from liberal to conservative, but I know that I’ve at least been trending rightward with age. Whereas I once would have supported any tax increase for education, I now want to know how that money will be spent, what results we can expect, and if that’s worth the tax.

We all know that Colorado rides the back of the national bus in per-pupil funding. And we know Colorado schools took an additional beating from the Great Recession (our kid’s class size went from 19 to 27). So I certainly wouldn’t argue that greater funding couldn’t help the situation.

But I’m reluctant to open up my wallet without confidence that it will help the situation. Two years ago Eagle County Schools asked for a local property tax increase to recover the money lost in the recession. But I don’t believe they made a very good case about how the money would be spent, or at least what specific results we, the taxpayers, could expect. That request, you may remember, failed to convince we voters.

And there is again a request this year to increase taxes to fund education. Amendment 66, though, is different that previous requests in a number of ways.

Most importantly to me, it’s not just about more money. Amendment 66 will make fundamental changes to how education is funded (creating greater market competition to win students), how schools operate (with greater school accountability along with greater school authority and control), and how administrators and taxpayers can monitor school and student performance.

The reforms Amendment 66 proposes are innovative and have not been tried on a statewide scale like this. But they are also based on demonstrated real-world results (such as the KIPP Academy charter schools).

Still, do I believe these reforms are a panacea for all the challenges facing Colorado schools? Of course not. Heck, I’m not sure it will even meet all of its goals. But if our fear of failing to meet audacious goals prevents us from even setting them, we have failed without even trying.

Because the Amendment 66 reforms include ways to evaluate progress, reward performance, and revise strategies, I do believe it has the potential to become the premier state-level model for primary education.

So my idealistic inner liberal is happy to finally give Colorado education the fiscal support it has so long pined for. And the frugal conservative in me gets the reform and accountability it demands before it’ll spend the money.

Amendment 66 represents a sizable tax increase, though it will still leave Colorado in the bottom third of states in per-student funding. Regardless of the numbers, I still have my criteria. Does Amendment 66 explain how the new tax money will be spent? It does. Does it tell me what results we can expect? It does. And finally, is it worth it?

If we collectively answer “no” this time around, we may truly and finally discover the worth of well-educated children — when we no longer have any.

Matt Scherr