The Denver Post
November 6, 2013
The drubbing of Amendment 66 Tuesday may have been a defeat for education reform and funding equity, but we understand why so many voters were reluctant to support the measure. The recession is over but times are still tough for many families, incomes remain in the doldrums and educational bureaucracies are not terribly trustworthy.
Throw into that mix a complex, billion-dollar tax proposal and most voters, it turns out, didn't want to go near it. They rejected the amendment decisively even though most of them probably never heard a single extended argument against it.
They couldn't have heard one, actually, given the lopsided nature of the public debate.
The pro-66 side raised more than $10 million that it lavished on advertising, messaging and get-out-the-vote efforts, thanks in part to huge donations from teachers unions, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill and Melinda Gates.
Opponents meanwhile had barely the equivalent of a street-corner megaphone at their disposal. And yet Colorado voters, in another display of independence, ignored the prodding in one direction and chose to go their own way.
They didn't merely defeat Amendment 66. They demolished the idea that voters are putty in the hands of consultants, alluring ads and expert appeals. It's not a new lesson, but one that needs to be relearned occasionally given the persistent claims that money buys elections.
Money usually helps, of course, but it's not always pivotal. And in this case it seems hardly to have helped at all.
Unfortunately, the admirable reforms and program expansions that Amendment 66 would have paid for, authorized by Senate Bill 213, won't go into effect now. SB 213 was contingent on more funding for at-risk students, preschoolers, full-day kindergarten, and a variety of other programs and innovations. It was the capstone of recent state reform measures and it can't be implemented without more revenue.
So will the reforms fall by the wayside? Under the bill, Coloradans have until November 2017 to fund them. So supporters could return in two or three years with another tax plan that might be more palatable.
After Tuesday's loss, however, it's hard to see how they could go back to the ballot without a new reform plan, too.
Lawmakers not only passed SB 213, of course, but several other measures that alienated a vocal swath of the electorate — the early evidence being this year's two Senate recalls. But even alienated voters have their limits, and we're pleased to report that the misguided 51st state initiative ran aground in several counties.
Meanwhile, with the easy passage of Proposition AA, the state will at least have money to properly regulate new retail marijuana outlets scheduled to open in two months. The world is watching to see how Colorado manages this foray into uncharted territory, and it is critical the state not scrimp on oversight. Now it won't have to.
In other important results, the reform agenda of Denver schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg fortunately appears safe for the time being after board candidates who supported it prevailed.
And a different but also important education reform agenda apparently survived a determined challenge in Douglas County.
But the big news of the night, clearly, was the decisive manner in which voters rejected Amendment 66. To the question of whether the state should raise the income tax, Coloradans didn't just say no. They shouted it.