Prop 103 – This is the Time

Appeared in the Longmont Times Call on October 17, 2011

I guess I’m puzzled. I read the Times-Call’s Prop 103 editorial on Oct. 9. The editorial
supports proper funding for public schools and states public education is a good cause. Yet after $776 million in state K-12 funding cuts the last three years and the forecast of continuing cuts for another 10 plus years the T-C doesn’t believe this is the right time to stop the de-funding.  Seems to me this is just the right time to stop further de-funding before our school system slips into the abyss. As Sen. Heath said, you can defer road maintenance, but you can’t defer a child’s education.

The T-C asks what happens in five years after Prop 103 runs out; and it doesn’t address other state needs. I shudder to think what happens to public education without the five
year “Band-Aid”.  If someone is bleeding and needs more than a Band-Aid, but the only thing in your first aid kit is a Band-Aid do you just walk away from the patient? Or do you at least try the Band-Aid? The T-C is right that 103 doesn’t address other state needs. The state education grassroots level did reach out to other revenue stakeholders, but the initiative filing time ran out before coming close to a comprehensive solution. So the decision was made to go forward with an education only initiative. By the way the five year Band-Aid is to allow the Legislature and voters the time to hopefully address Colorado’s systemic revenue problems without further de-funding of education.

This leads me to the T-C’s next objection, that ballot box decisions are a poor way to run a
representative government; and that 103 will only exacerbate the problem. I agree that ballot box decisions are a poor way to run a representative government, but that is how Colorado’s constitution operates. The voters took away the Legislature’s power to represent Coloradans in fiscal issues. Colorado is no longer a representative government; it is a direct democracy when it comes to matters of revenues. Prop 103 is revenue above and beyond current state funding sources and is solely for public education, so I’m not quite sure how that exacerbates the problem.

The T-C is concerned with the unfortunate timing of 103. One thing I know is de-funding our education system is not the long or short term solution to fixing our economy. If Coloradans are interested in attracting businesses to our state then a properly funded public education system is part of the equation. Prospective employers want a well educated work force and employees moving to Colorado what a properly funded public education system for their children. The impact of Prop 103 on a family making $50,000 a year is about $2.75 a week.  The cost of continued de-funding will lead to programming cuts, increased class sizes and probable transportation fees costing families much more than $2.75 per week.

Some taxpayers may feel we already spend enough or too much on public education, so more cuts are just fine. So let’s see where Colorado stands nationally in public education funding. In straight dollars we rank 32nd.  If you factor in per capita income, Colorado ranks 48th.

The T-C ends with 103 being a well-meaning idea, that our schools should be properly funded, but 103 is not the best way to do it. I agree with that statement. Prop 103 is less than ideal. In a perfect world the Legislature to sit down together and instantly craft
bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to address 30 years of hodge-podge state constitutional amendments, put that legislation on the ballot and fix all the ills of our state in one fell swoop.  Unfortunately, that isn’t happening this election cycle. What we have are two choices. First, allow the continued de-funding of our public education system and its 48th funding ranking, or pass the five year Band-Aid to give the Legislature and the voters the time to address our state’s systemic revenue issues. I’m opting for the Prop 103 Band-Aid. I hope you will join me at the first aid kit on Election Day.

Alex Sharp is a retired Naval Officer who has lived in the Longmont area for 4 years and is a member of Grassroots St Vrain.

About Grassroots St. Vrain

GSV is an independent, non profit organization whose vision is a St. Vrain Valley community that is informed about education funding in Colorado and empowered to take action for the benefit of our schools.
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