David Mitchell

October 07, 2013

DENVER — Four weeks from now, Coloradans will vote on a school funding measure that opponents describe as unfair and expensive and proponents believe would be well worth the cost.

Amendment 66 would pour $950 million a year into the state’s schools, a critical infusion at a time when many think education is severely underfunded. The bill would increase spending on education in Colorado from $5.5 billion to $6.4 billion, or 16.6 percent.

“We want to improve the way we’re funding our schools and we want to look at ways to improve outcomes, especially for at-risk kids,” said Curtis Hubbard, Yes on 66 spokesman.

The measure would allow many more teachers to be hired, educational programs to be added or restored and more attention paid to the state’s poorer students.

“We really want to close the achievement gap between students who are at the high end of the scale and students who are the bottom end of the scale,” Hubbard said.

Amendment 66 would be paid for with an income tax increase, bringing rates up to five percent for those earning less than $75,000 a year and nearly six percent for those earning over that amount. Opponents believe the cost, $133 more per year for an average family, represents be an unfair burden.

“Moms are now going to have to choose when do I go to the doctor more carefully,” said Laura Boggs with Coloradans for Real Education Reform. “Child’s got the sniffles, running a fever of 101, that $10 a month means something for them.”

“We think that’s an investment that a majority of Coloradans are willing to make,” replied Hubbard.

Opponents also argue that Amendment 66 treats some school districts more kindly than others. They say the amount of money allotted per student actually goes down in some places.

“It ‘zip-codes’ whether you get any more money or not,” said Boggs. “That’s not fair.”

The Yes on 66 campaign has spent $5 million so far getting its message out, far more than its opponents. Its new TV ad terms 66 “big change, small price.” Those against the measure would take issue with half of that slogan.

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