Yesterday, the Peak explored the different proposals to pay for Democratic Senators Mike Johnston and Rollie Heath’s one billion dollar education funding tax hike. (Hint: They’re all income tax increases.) But, why do Johnston and Heath need another billion dollars from Colorado’s taxpayers? What exactly is in this bill?
The bulk of the bill deals with how education funds are dispersed throughout the state. According to the Denver Post, the way the funds are distributed would be based on a three-part model from Rhode Island. Here’s how it’s explained:
“First, the legislature would set an average state-local ratio — Johnston proposes a 64-36 split, Colorado’s current ratio. Next, each district’s property tax base per pupil would be adjusted to reflect the local median income and students on free and reduced lunch, a common measure of poverty.
Districts that lose funding as a result could increase local taxes to make up the difference or just absorb the loss.”
So, while this bill is paid for primarily through a statewide income tax increase, it would appear that local districts have a strong incentive to also increase property taxes once funds are redistributed. Additionally, smaller districts would be further encouraged to pass property tax increases due to a program that would offer matching state funds.
One of the largest complaints about the bill is its redistribution of funds. EdNews Colorado sums it up pretty well:
“The central feature of the plan is a significant shift of funding to districts with the highest concentrations of at-risk students and English language learners. That would benefit districts like Denver and Aurora. Large districts with a lower concentration of such students, such as Cherry Creek, Douglas County and Jefferson County, would receive smaller increases in per-pupil funding.”
Even Democrats acknowledged that this could be too large a hurdle for Colorado’s voters. Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson nonsensically told the Denver Post:
“I think we can make it make sense, but there has to be a really good, clear message. If we want equal outcomes for all children in Colorado, we’re going to have some unequal funding — that’s what equity is about.”
Proponents of the bill also claim that it has additional transparency measures built in so that taxpayers can see how school districts spend money. The bill also would provide separate funding for special education programs, a $600 per year per pupil grant to schools to pay for previously “unfunded education reforms”, and an “Innovation Fund” for under performing school districts.
But, overall, with Johnston’s original claim that his reforms would cost $2.75 billion and the ability of the state to ratchet up income taxes, again, is this bill worth the harm it will pose to the financial stability of middle class families?