Proposed measure to boost Colorado teacher funding fails to make ballot

Organizers say they did not gather enough signatures to submit
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Posted at 12:10 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 14:10:14-04

DENVER — A proposed ballot measure that would have put nearly $1 billion a year in income tax revenue toward Colorado public K-12 teachers and schools will not go to voters in November after organizers failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot.

Organizers with the Great Schools Thriving Communities Coalition – comprised of the Colorado School Finance Project and Great Education Colorado – announced Monday they would not be submitting signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office for Initiative 63 after falling short of the 125,000 that were needed for the measure to be approved for November’s election.

If the measure had been approved for the ballot and then by voters, it would have put one-third of 1% of future state income tax revenue toward the state education fund and protected it from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) cap, to the tune of an estimated $984 million a year.

That money would have been required to put toward recruiting and attracting, retaining, and boosting the pay for teachers and paraprofessionals.

Leaders with the Great Schools Thriving Communities Coalition said they were profoundly disappointed they had not been able to collect the necessary signatures.

“We have learned the hard way that the enormous cost of gathering 125,000 valid signatures puts the ballot out of the reach of ordinary citizens – even with an extraordinarily popular measure with broad grassroots support like Initiative 63,” said Tracie Rainey and Lisa Weil in a statement. “Unfortunately for all Coloradans and especially for our public school students and teachers, deep pockets appear to be a prerequisite for ballot access.”

The measure had polled well earlier this year. A Tulchin Research poll of 800 likely voters provided by the coalition and done in June found 56% of respondents either definitely or probably would have supported the measure.

And a Magellan Strategies public education poll done in May of Colorado voters found 64% of respondents supported or were leaning toward supporting the measure. A Keating Research poll in February found 62% would support or were leaning toward supporting such a measure.

“As a voter opinion research professional, I know you can’t get the stars to align any better than that,” said Magellan Strategies CEO David Flaherty.

Flaherty called the failure of the measure to make the ballot “a tragedy” and said he was hopeful a similar measure could make the ballot one of the next two years.

“After 15 years of measuring voter opinion for failed statewide ballot measures, we have learned what voters will or will not approve,” Flaherty added. “Sadly, and tragically, Initiative 63 was the education funding ballot measure that would have achieved voter approval.”

Colorado has one of the lowest average teacher salaries in the country, and the state legislature rarely fully funds K-12 education, although lawmakers added about $5 billion more to this year’s budget for K-12 schools and referred a ballot measure that, if approved, would fund school lunches for all students by reducing state income tax deduction caps for people earning more than $300,000 a year.

“Because our fiscal and ballot systems have failed our students, today we are calling on all legislative candidates and elected officials to pledge support for policies and referred measures that will give voters the chance to put their values into action,” Weil and Rainey said in a statement.