Colorado Proposition 119: Supporters of Funding Private Out-of-School Learning for Children Concede Defeat

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Figures from nonprofit researchers show that children spend around 80% of their time outside of school. Affluent families spend more than six times as much on outdoor learning activities – like STEM summer camps and math tutoring – than underfunded families. The differences between the marks of low-income students and other students are 30 percentage points.

Gary Community Ventures CEO and former Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston said the learning gaps between low-income students and their wealthier counterparts only widened during the pandemic.

“Our belief has always been that when you look at the equity gaps… COVID has revealed what we’ve always known [was] a problem was a problem, but it has now become more dramatic, that is, the fairness gap is there and it is growing, ”said Johnston.

In order to fund the proposal, the state would have increased the tax rate on recreational cannabis from 15% to 20% over the next three years. After three years, the measure would have generated around $ 137 million per year from cannabis taxes alone.

The Colorado cannabis industry opposed the proposal and argued that their businesses were disproportionately targeted compared to other industries like alcohol. Small minority-owned businesses said they would not be able to afford a tax increase.

They celebrated the apparent victory on Tuesday. Chuck Smith, CEO of BellRock Brands and Chairman of the Board of Colorado Leads, said in an emailed statement that the cannabis industry “is an integral part of the Colorado business community and always supports doing our fair. go. However, our more than 30,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of customers have made a statement: stop unfairly taxing our industry. “

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
Proposition 119 campaign strategist Josh Penry, standing, center, watches election results with other supporters at the Maven Hotel in Denver on Tuesday evening, Election Day, November 2, 2021. The Question of the Statewide polling asked voters if they wanted to increase the tax rate on recreational marijuana and use the new funds to fund after-school programs and tutoring for underserved youth. Families could choose from approved programs, which could be run by a public school or a private provider.

Proposition 119 would also have embezzled about $ 22 million from the State Lands Trust, a fund dedicated to benefiting public schools over the long term. Currently, about half of the trust’s income is reinvested to grow the fund and its interest income over time. Rather, the measure would have diverted a large part of this reinvestment income to pay for the private program, according to tax analysts.

This diversion aroused opposition from several education groups. The organization representing public school superintendents and one representing state school boards opposed proposal 119. These groups and another group, Advocates for Public Education Policy, said they did not like that the measure establishes a new bureaucracy and takes money from public schools. A legislative tax analysis estimates that the state land trust would lose $ 48 million over ten years, which otherwise would have gone to schools.

Others were also concerned that funding another measure that increases the tax on recreational cannabis would only cloud voters’ understanding of the dire funding situation facing Colorado public schools. Voters rejected three statewide voting measures that would have increased money for schools. They fear the increase in the cannabis sales tax may perpetuate the myth that sales in this relatively new industry have solved Colorado’s school funding problems.

In addition, about $ 10 billion has been withheld from Colorado schools since the Great Recession to balance the state budget. Opponents of 119 have said they want the annual education deficit to be fully funded before approving money for education elsewhere.

Others have raised questions about the transparency and accountability of the new agency the measure would have created.

Here’s how Proposition 119 would have worked:

The Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress or LEAP program – which would have been created by Proposition 119 – would have been managed by a new independent agency called the Colorado Learning Authority. It was reportedly overseen by a nine-member board of directors appointed by the governor. This agency would have certified tutors and enrichment programs eligible for funding. He reportedly credited low-income families with at least $ 1,500 a year for every public school student aged 5 to 17. Families would have chosen from an approved list of school learning options that best match their children’s developmental or academic needs.

The approved list could have included academic tutoring, language learning, vocational and technical training, mental health or social and emotional services, services for students with special needs or enrichment programs like the arts. or sports.

The intention was to prioritize low-income children in households at twice the federal poverty level, but in the unlikely event that there were more funds than low-income children, the agency would had the power to distribute to higher income families. From 2024, the measure would have enabled the council to determine the amounts of financial assistance.


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