Colorado Voters Reject Tax Hike for School Finance 2 to 1

colorado-flagTuesday Colorado voters rejected Amendment 66 (64.9% to 35%) which would have changed the state’s flat income tax rate of 4.63% to a two-tiered system that would have injected more tax revenue into the state’s K-12 education system.

The Denver Post reports:

The new revenue stream would have been aimed at several areas, including preschool, full-day kindergarten, additional support for English-language learners, and locally determined innovations such as longer school days and years.

It also promised greater funding for charter schools and support for previously passed reforms such as the educator effectiveness framework that went into effect this school year.

The amendment represented the first major overhaul to school finance in nearly two decades, crafted over more than two years by a consortium of interests and carried into the political arena primarily by Sen. Mike Johnston, the Denver Democrat who had earlier success achieving bipartisan education reform…

…Critics seized on what they called insufficient reform and accountability as well as the inequity of a tiered tax structure and its implementation while the Colorado economy remains fragile amid a slow recovery from the recession.

Dustin Zvonek, the state director for Americans for Prosperity, hailed the voters’ decision.

"We congratulate Coloradans for having the common sense to reject this unnecessary and unjustified tax grab," he said. "Passing Amendment 66 would have gravely wounded the state’s economy and business climate, while rewarding a reform-resistant education system with an unearned windfall."

The rejection of the tax hike and school-finance overhaul came despite proponents’ huge war chest — more than $10 million — for a campaign to convince voters that a tax hike to bolster education constituted a worthwhile investment.

But this effort faced a formidable challenge….

…The race attracted national attention, including support from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal weighing in pro and con, respectively.

National money also entered the campaign in a big way, with millions from the National Education Association and late donations from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates supporting the measure.

Final campaign-finance reports won’t be out until Dec. 5.

That money gave proponents a huge edge in spending on television advertising. Opponents relied on a much smaller TV presence financed by an arm of the Independence Institute, which raised about $734,000 for "educational outreach."

This isn’t directly related to the Common Core State Standards, but activists on the ground said this change in school finance would have helped to fund the implementation of the Common Core.  The fact the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan supported this is telling.  This isn’t a win against the Common Core per se as the standards still exist in the state.  It certainly isn’t a vote of confidence by the Colorado electorate on the types of education reforms that has been driven by Governor John Hickenlooper.

Besides, a tax hike?  C’mon did they really think that would fly even one being described as “for the children”?