This is in effort to raise Colorado’s income tax revenue to $1.1 billion annually to fund SB 213, the New Public School Finance Act, which is supposed to revolutionize the way the state funds public K-12 education and implement new reforms. Unfortunately, it does neither; it just offers more of the same, but at with a bigger price tag.
With news that the state had a billion dollar surplus last year, many have questioned the need to raise tax rates. Proponents argue that this surplus is a one-time deal, but that the tax increase ($1.1 billion every year) will be sustained over time. Ok, that’s a fair argument, but it still begs the question of whether or not we need to increase education spending?
Colorado already devotes the majority of its general fund to education, and ranks 26th in education spending among all 50 states, according to the National Education Association (NEA). Additionally, the state increased education funding for FY 2013-14 by $153 million.
There is also nothing in SB 213 or Initiative 22’s language that would guarantee that this new tax revenue would be spent on K-12 public education. In past years, the state’s education fund has been used to cover other deficits. Also, PERA (the Public Employees’ Retirement Association) is $20 billion in debt, and the tax revenue could certainly be used alleviate that problem.
Even if the money is spent where it should be, it doesn’t promote or reward achievement or innovation. The only real reform in SB 213 is the way students are counted, which could certainly be accomplished without spending $1 billion annually.
Despite the number of signatures turned in to get Initiative 22 on the ballot, there is the chance Colorado voters will not approve it. In 2011, voters rejected Proposition 103, another tax increase for education. In fact, voters haven’t approved a general tax increase since TABOR over 20 years ago.
In this case, we can only hope that history repeats itself and Colorado voters once again reject this unnecessary and exorbitant tax hike. Instead of asking tax payers to fork over more money, we should be concentrating on actual reforms that will improve the state’s public K-12 educations system. It is time to put focus back where it belongs – on the students – and to do so without burdening taxpayers.