Colorado School Funding Defeat

Last Updated: November 20, 2013

This article appeared in the November 2013 Rural Policy Matters.

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The future of school funding in Colorado is unclear after voters defeated a measure that would have raised about $950 million for schools. Amendment 66 would have altered the state’s flat income tax system by raising the current rate from 4.63% to 5%, and taxing incomes over $75,000 at 5.9%.

The measure was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

Advocates, including Colorado Commits to Kids and the Colorado Education Association, which championed Amendment 66, had argued the measure was needed to address long-standing inadequacies in the finance system as well as more recent woes resulting from budget cuts.

In May, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that had found the state’s school funding system unconstitutional. (You can read RPM coverage here.)

The state legislature then passed Senate Bill 213, which includes a number of measures to strengthen school funding and address some of the issues raised in the finance lawsuit. Many of the provisions of SB 213, including full-day kindergarten are politically popular. Some would address specific concerns of rural districts, including funding for teacher recruitment and retention, a small district weight, and support for districts with declining enrollment.

Implementation of SB 213 hinged on raising new revenues leaving advocates unclear how to implement its provisions.

While voters defeated Amendment 66, they approved taxes on recreational marijuana. About two-thirds of voters approved the proposed 15% excise tax and 10% sales tax, which are projected to generate about $67 million. Much of that revenue will go toward regulation of the newly legal marijuana market. The first $40 million of the excise tax will go to school construction.

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