Colorado Tax Increase for Education, Amendment 66 (2013)
- 1 Election results
- 2 Background
- 3 Text of measure
- 4 Support
- 5 Opposition
- 6 Media endorsements
- 7 Polls
- 8 Reports and analyses
- 9 Related lawsuits
- 10 PERA controversy
- 11 TABOR controversy
- 12 Path to the ballot
- 13 Similar measures
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
- 16 Additional reading
- 17 References
Had it been approved, Amendment 66 would have increased the state's income tax to raise the amount of state tax revenue spent on public school districts by about 16.6%, from $5.5 billion under the current law, to a little over $6.4 billion. Once the increases for charter school funding were added, this would have amounted to a $950 million increase. Amendment 66 would also have allowed for the implementation of the new Public School Finance Act Senate Bill 213. The new tax and education funding formulas found in SB 13-213 would have gone into effect in the 2015-16 fiscal year. At the time of the November 2013 vote the statewide per-pupil funding was $6,652 and was projected to rise to $7,426 under SB 13-213. The organization "Colorado Commits to Kids" sponsored the initiative.
- Any taxable income of up to $75,000 would be taxed at a rate of 5%.
- Any taxable income surpassing $75,000 would be taxed at a rate of 5.9%.
The proposed increases represented an 8% increase in income tax on those making less than $75,000 per year and a 26.6% increase in income tax on any taxable income over $75,000 per year. There was also a clause in the language of Amendment 66 which allowed the General Assembly to “annually adjust the income thresholds for the income tax increment for inflation.” The language also imposed an earmark mandate that “require[d] that at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue ... be set aside annually to pay for public education.”
Amendment 66 went before voters at a time when controversy over education funding was fueling debate at the local level regarding school board elections and on the state level, resulting in heated debate over SB 213. By the time of the election on November 5, 2013, supporters raised over $10 million in support of Amendment 66, the most money raised in support of a ballot measure during the 2013 election cycle.
A lawsuit was filed on October 2, 2013 to remove Amendment 66 from the ballot based on the allegation that 39,555 signatures used to qualify it for the ballot were invalid. However, on October 15, 2013, Denver District Court Judge R. Michael Mullins ruled the petitions were adequately inline with state law and the initiative was valid. Although it was too late to literally remove Amendment 66 from the ballot, if the lawsuit had been successful, votes would have been disregarded and the Amendment ignored.
The Colorado Education Association (CEA), although big supporters of Amendment 66, threatened to sue to eliminate parts of Senate Bill 191, which would have been funded by Amendment 66. Teacher unions, especially the CEA, were opposed to SB 191 because it established new standards for teachers and principals and restricted teacher tenure, allowing tenure to be removed after two consecutive "low-performance" years. But they were allegedly waiting to file a lawsuit against SB 191 until after the fate of Amendment 66 was decided, in order to avoid harm to the Amendment 66 campaign.
Nationally, Amendment 66 was one of 31 ballot measures in six states. Amendment 66 was one of just three statewide measures in 2013 that earned a spot on the ballot via petition. It was one of two measures before Coloradans. The other statewide ballot measure on the November 5, 2013 ballot in Colorado was Proposition AA, which was approved. Prop AA imposes taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana]].
Below are the official election results.
- These results are from the The Colorado Secretary of State.
Amendment 66 was part of a larger effort by various groups and legislators to overhaul the state's public education system. Amendment 66 was related to, but separate from, SB 213. SB 213 was an amendment to the Colorado Public School Finance Act that would have affected how the state financed individual schools, not how the state education system itself was funded. That task was left to Amendment 66, which sought to raise taxes for funding the legislation. There was a clause built into SB 213 that prevented it from taking effect unless Amendment 66 was passed in November 2013.
In 2011, nearly 64% of voting Coloradans shot down a measure that would have increased the state income tax by .36% and the state sales tax by .1%. This measure would have reportedly raised an estimated $3 billion for education funding.
Text of measure
The ballot question as it appeared on the ballot read:
|“||Shall state taxes be increased by $950,100,000 annually in the first full fiscal year and by such amounts as are raised thereafter by amendments to the Colorado constitution and the Colorado revised statutes concerning funding for preschool through twelfth-grade public education, and, in connection therewith, increasing the current state income tax rate on individuals, estates, and trusts and imposing an additional rate so higher amounts of income are taxed at higher rates; requiring the resulting increases in tax revenues be spent only for improvements to preschool through twelfth-grade public education; allowing all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval; requiring at least 43% of state sales, excise, and income tax revenues be deposited in the state education fund; and repealing certain existing public education funding requirements?||”|
- See also: Article IX, Colorado Constitution
Had Amendment 66 been approved, it would have amended Section 17 of Article IX of the Colorado Constitution. Specifically, it would have amended paragraphs (1), (2) and (4) of Section 17 and added new paragraphs (6), (7) and (8).
List of Amendment 66 supporters:
- Governor John Hickenlooper (D)
- Sen. Mike Johnston (D-33) sponsored SB213
- Sen. Rollie Heath (D-18)
- Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-32)
- Rep. Lois Court (D-6)
- Rep. Mark Ferrandino, Speaker of the House (D-2)
- Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-42)
- Sen. Evie Hudak (D-19)
- Rep. Claire Levy (D-13)
- Rep. Beth McCann (D-8)
- Rep. Jovan Melton (D-41)
- Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-32)
- Sen. Pat Steadman (D-31)
- Sen. Nancy Todd (D-28)
- Sen. Jessie Ulibarri (D-21)
- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
- Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver
- Former State Representative & State Senator Polly Baca
- Former House Representative Fran Coleman
- Former Governor Bill Ritter (D)
- Former Governor Roy Romer
- Former State Representative & State Senator Penfield Tate
- Adams County School District 14 Board of Education
- Aurora Public Schools
- Boulder Valley School District
- Brighton School District 27J
- Brush School District RE-2(J)
- Center Consolidated School District 26JT
- Denver Public Schools
- Dolores School District RE-4A
- Durango School District 9-R Board of Education
- Eagle County Schools
- Englewood Public School District
- Monte Vista School District
- Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1
- North Conejos School District RE 1-J
- Pueblo County School District
- St. Vrain Valley Schools
- Summit County School District
- Weld County School District 6 Board of Education
- Weldon Valley RE-20J
- 9to5 Colorado
- A+ Denver
- Aspen Skiing Company
- Aurora Community of Faith
- Aurora Education Association
- Aurora Health Access
- Bell Policy Center
- Black Chamber of Commerce
- Board of Education Eagle County School District
- Boulder Chamber
- Boulder Community Foundation
- Boulder Valley Education Association
- Boyer Coffee Company
- Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center
- Cherry Creek Education Association
- Children’s Hospital Colorado
- City of Denver
- Clayton Early Learning
- Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented
- Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children
- Colorado Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Instructors
- Colorado Association of Libraries
- Colorado Association of School Boards
- Colorado Association of School Executives
- Colorado Black Health Collaborative
- Colorado Black Round Table
- Colorado Center on Law and Policy
- Colorado Children’s Campaign
- Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
- Colorado Education Association
- Colorado Fiscal Institute
- Colorado Hospital Association
- Colorado Nonprofit Association
- Colorado Participation Project
- Colorado Progressive Coalition
- Colorado PTA
- Colorado School Medicaid Consortium
- Colorado Springs Education Association
- Colorado State University Board of Governors
- Colorado State Black Student Athletic Association
- Colorado State University Board of Governors
- Colorado Succeeds
- Colorado WINS
- Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce
- Democrats for Education Reform – CO
- Denver Association of Education Office Professionals
- Denver Classroom Teachers Association
- Denver Early Childhood Council
- Denver Preschool Program
- Denver Public Schools Foundation
- District Twelve Educators' Association
- Down to Earth Media
- Durango Education Association
- Early Childhood Council of Boulder County
- Early Childhood Education Association
- Early Childhood Summit
- Education Foundation of Eagle County
- Executives Partnering to Invest in Children
- Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund
- Great Education Colorado
- Gunnison Education Association
- Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver
- Impact on Education
- Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
- Jefferson County Education Association
- League of Women Voters of Colorado
- Metro State University of Denver Board of Trustees
- Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers
- Mile High United Way
- Mosaic Church of Aurora
- National Council of Jewish Women - Colorado Section
- One Colorado
- Padres y Jovenes Unidos
- Poudre Education Association
- ProgressNow Colorado
- Project WISE
- Public Education & Business Coaltion (PEBC)
- Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
- Rose Community Foundation
- Rosemary Rodriguez
- Rural Caucus
- Stand for Children Colorado
- State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education
- STRIVE Preparatory Schools
- Summer Scholars
- The House Worship Center
- Together Colorado
- University of Colorado Hospital
- Youth Empowering Social Action
- See also: A full list of supporters
- Senator Johnston said that the initiative would provide direct funding to areas in education that have the highest impact. In a statement made as signatures were submitted on August 5, 2013, Senator Johnston said, "We’ll have for the first time the metrics where a taxpayer, a voter, a legislator will be able to see clearly what return they got and be able to change the investment if they want to."
- According to the support campaign, the initiative would have allowed individual schools and districts to have more direct control over funding. They claimed that this in turn would produce smaller class sizes, reduce fees paid by parents and allow for additional extracurricular and specialized programs.
- Supporters said that money raised would be put in the State Education Achievement Fund and could only be used for education reforms and enhancements to existing programs. This argument was also the focus of an editorial published by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on September 9, 2013. That editorial criticized opponents' claims, specifically those made by Treasurer Stapleton, that money raised by the measure could be used to fund the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Fund (PERA). The article also argued that if pension funding was a threat to educational funding, it made an even stronger case for Amendment 66 because it would set "aside a significant amount of taxpayer money exclusively for educational use."
- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "If the voters pass Amendment 66, Colorado will become the educational model for every other state to follow."
- In their public endorsement of the amendment, Stand for Children argued the measure would improve the state's education system by:
- "Making sure our kids master the basics: reading, math, and science."
- "Allowing districts in Colorado to hire more, great teachers and principals for our schools."
- "Increasing support for gifted and talented students, at-risk students, and English Language Learners."
This data was obtained from the Colorado Secretary of State's elections division and was current as of the election on November 5, 2013. The following committees were registered in support of Amendment 66:
|PAC||Amount raised||Amount spent|
|Greeley Commits to Kids||$33,841||$17,913|
|Colorado Commits to Kids||$10,290,138||$9,423,577|
|Great Education Colorado Action||$35,000||$24,658|
|Bell Action Issue Committee||$16,100||$14,378|
|Stand For Children Issue Committee||$51,950||$50,167|
|Bill and Melinda Gates||$1,000,000|
|National Education Association||$1,000,000|
|Gary Investment Company||$700,000|
|Colorado Education Association||$300,000|
|Education Reform Now||$250,000|
|Rose Community Foundation||$200,000|
|DaVita (a kidney dialysis company)||$100,000|
Below is an infographic from the Colorado Commits to Kids website showing where Amendment 66 funds would have been spent:
The group Coloradans for Real Education Reform led the campaign in opposition to the measure.
- Coloradans Against Using Kids as Pawns
- State Treasurer Walker Stapleton
- Compass Colorado
- Independence Institute
- Colorado At Its Best
- Sen. Greg Brophy (R-1)
- National Federation of Independent Business
- Club 20
- Douglas County School District Board
- Former State Senator Bob Hagedorn (D-29)
- Former State Senator Norma Anderson (R-22)
- Estes Park School District Board Member, Todd Jirsa, disapproved of Amendment 66 and asked voters to vote "no" on the tax increase.
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Treasurer Stapleton expressed concern that the money could be used to pay for rising pension and health care costs for teachers instead of improving education.
- Opponents argued that the tax hike would be too tough on small businesses and families at a time when the economy was still recovering.
- There was also a clause in the language of Amendment 66 which allowed the General Assembly to “annually adjust the income thresholds for the income tax increment for inflation.” The language also “requires that at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue ... be set aside annually to pay for public education.” Critics argued that the first clause mentioned would have allowed the Assembly to essentially raise taxes based on inflation without voter approval and that the "43%" clause unnecessarily tied the hands of law makers with regard to the budget.
- The Independence Institute's Eduction Policy Center raised several concerns regarding SB 213. According to them, the bill contained:
- A redistribution scheme that unfairly burdens taxpayers in certain communities
- A constitutional mandate that restricts the legislature’s ability to allocate resources
- A funding formula that creates inequities based on where a student is enrolled
- Inadequate policy changes that offer no real hope of better student outcomes
- No rewards or motivation for high performance school districts
- The Eagle County Times, an online blog, argued that the approval of Amendment 66 would require voters to forfeit rights specified in the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). They pointed specifically to the following line from the text of the measure: "all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval."
- Sen. Greg Brophy, a gubernatorial hopeful, argued that hiring better teachers was a better way to improve Colorado's education system than any tax increase. He said, "K-12 really has had a lot of money thrown at it. What we haven’t addressed is teacher effectiveness."
- Opponents also pointed to a study called "Spending in Schools", which concludes that “dramatic increases in resources for schools do not appear to translate into enhanced student performance.”
- Todd Jirsa, a member of the board for Estes Park School District, asked voters to say "no" to Amendment 66, even though it would provide $1.1 million in new funding for the district. He argued that the extra money is not worth the loss of local control that comes with it. He believed the local funding and local control would be better off in the long run than state funds accompanied by state meddling. At the time Jirsa made his statements, the school district received no money from the state. Jirsa endorsed a mill levy override that would provide $750,000 per year to his district. Jirsa said, "Our system for funding schools is broken. The problem with Amendment 66 is it's not right to attach funding for schools to income tax. This is a quick fix ... a band-aid. It's not the right fix for this situation. Secondly, I believe in local control. I would rather have people vote for the mill levy override. That money is guaranteed to stay in Estes Park. With Amendment 66, the money is not guaranteed it will stay in Estes Park. I would rather have less money under our control than more money with no control." Jirsa said the school board had yet to vote to endorse Amendment 66 one way or another, but that he expected a resolution to oppose it from the board in the near future.
- David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the problem with Amendment 66 was that it was passing fiscal reform of the education system off as education reform. He said that what was needed is true reform of the methods used in the class rooms and proposed that Amendment 66 would put a strain on the economy without actually improving education by a very large margin.
- Dissenters expressed concern that increasing income tax and shifting more of the tax burden to high income residents would cause many in the highest tax brackets to shift income to other states. Below is a chart showing the income tax revenue inequalities at the time of the vote:
This data was obtained from the Colorado Secretary of State's elections division and was current as of the election on November 5, 2013. The following committees were registered in opposition to Amendment 66:
|PAC||Amount raised||Amount spent|
|Coloradans Against Unions Using Kids As Pawns||$11,643||$8,907|
|Coloradans For Real Education Reform||$24,400||$19,352|
- The Denver Post said, "We wouldn't support the measure if it simply shoveled more money into schools. But Amendment 66 offers a break with the past and the opportunity to do for our children what no other state has been able to do. We enthusiastically support the passage of Amendment 66. It's for what's most precious to us all: our children."
- The Durango Herald editorial board had this praise to offer Amendment 66: "There is much good in Amendment 66, and the details are worth understanding. Colorado’s K-12 education system has been chronically underfunded, and the mechanism by which that money is distributed is outdated and in dire need of an upgrade. The initiative, spearheaded by state Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, does all of these things in a well-considered way. The campaign to embody these reforms in the state Constitution must ensure that Colorado voters understand that thoroughly."
- The Daily Camera: On behalf of the editorial board of the Daily Camera, Erika Stutzman wrote an article endorsing a "yes" vote on Amendment 66. In it she wrote, "The money would be spent in ways we believe is a smart approach to Colorado's achievement gap. It would hire preschool teachers for at-risk students. It would offer full-day kindergarten to all Coloradans. It is evenly applied to charter schools." She concluded, "A billion-dollar tax increase is a lot to ask voters to support. We acknowledge that, and lend our voice in support of Amendment 66."
- The Boulder Weekly: The staff of the Boulder Weekly published a voter guide for the November election, in which they endorsed a "yes" vote on Amendment 66: "We support A-66. It will offer educational benefits to traditionally disadvantaged schools and districts. Other districts and charter schools will gain funding to hire teachers and upgrade technology. Increased kindergarten and preschool enrollment will help more kids avoid falling behind right off bat. Education is a major factor in economic success, both on the individual and societal levels. Colorado income tax rates will increase, but we’ll still have a relatively low state tax burden if A-66 passes[...] Colorado values education, in spite of our reputation for not funding it, and it’s time for us to admit that we get what we pay for."
- The Greeley Tribune: The editorial board of the Greeley Tribune said Amendment 66 is "just too good to pass up."
- Aurora Sentinel: The following supportive words were found in an Aurora Sentinel editorial: "Funding public education to a level that it’s successful is a wise investment for everyone in Colorado, and Amendment 66 is a strong step in that direction."
- Colorado Springs Gazette said, "At this juncture, it's hard to trust the stated purpose of the massive new tax proposal. Simply calling it an education tax won't make it so. If they can't prove it, prepare to vote 'no.'"
- The Pueblo Chieftain had this to say in its editorial about Amendment 66: "Education Reform? Yes. Fairer funding for our schools? Absolutely. Increase state income taxes by $950 million in the first full year — and more than $1 billion annually thereafter? A resounding No... We oppose the massive tax increase. Throwing more money at the problem is no guarantee of any real improvement in our disappointing public school system."
- See also: Polls, 2013 ballot measures
Magellan Strategies released a poll on September 20, 2013, that asked 600 likely voters if they supported or opposed Amendment 66. The people surveyed were asked for responses to two different phrasings of the question. The first did not inform the survey taker about the details of Amendment 66, and the second did.
If the election were being held today would you vote YES to approve and support the amendment that increases taxes for public education or would you vote NO to reject and oppose the amendment that increases taxes to fund public education?
As you may know, if passed Amendment 66 will increase the individual state income tax rate on all Coloradans. If an individual’s annual income is 75 thousand dollars or less their state income tax rate increases from 4.63% to 5%. If an individual’s annual income is more than 75 thousand dollars their state income tax rate increases from 4.63% to 5.9%. Knowing this information, do you support or oppose Amendment 66?
|Amendment 66 - Support v. Opposition (09/20/2013)|
|Poll||Support||Opposition||Undecided||Margin of Error||Sample Size|
|Magellan Strategies - Colorado Amendment 66 uninformed survey - First Question||38%||44%||18%||+/-4||600|
|Magellan Strategies - Colorado Amendment 66 Informed Survey - Second Question||38%||52%||10%||+/-4||600|
|Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org|
Former Republican Senator Norma Anderson responded to the Magellan poll results, saying, "[The numbers] tell me this won't pass. You have the 52% that's just talking about the tax, that is against it. If I don't start with 55-56% in favor, I'm losing."
CrossCurrents - Amendment 66: Larimer County League of Woman Voters discussion
Reports and analyses
University of Denver
Jack Strauss, of the Reiman School of Finance, University of Denver, published a study titled "The Economic Gains to Colorado of Amendment 66" on September 17, 2013. The study concentrated on the long-term economic and social impacts of increased education spending. According to the research, increased funding would result in lower crime and healthcare savings due to improved lifestyle choices due to a better educated general public. The study also found that a lower dropout rate would positively affect welfare costs and the state's unemployment rate.
To read the full report, see here.
Colorado Center on Law and Policy
The Bell Action Network, Colorado Center on Law Policy and Colorado Fiscal Institute, all of which supported the amendment, published an analysis of the amendment's potential economic impacts. Their study concluded that states with higher investments in public education had higher median wages and above average economic activity. The study also noted that students attending full-day kindergarten outperformed students enrolled in half-day classes. It also noted that mothers of students in full-day classes had an increased likelihood of gaining full-time employment.
To read the full report, see here.
The Independence Institute released a report, Issue Backgrounder, which analyzed the funding formula that would be put in place by the approval of Amendment 66 and found it: "unfair and overpriced". The report, authored by Ben DeGrow, raised four main concerns with Amendment 66:
- A redistribution scheme that unfairly burdens taxpayers in certain communities
- A constitutional mandate that restricts the legislature's ability to allocate resources
- A Funding formula that creates inequalities based on where a student is enrolled
- And inadequate policy changes that offer no real hope of better student outcomes.
|District comparison numbers|
|Independence Inst.||Group 1||Group 2|
|% of CO children||20.9%||14.3%|
|% of new funds||15%||22%|
|Group 1 = Jeffco, Dougco and Bld. Valley districts|
|Group 2 = Denver and Aurora school districts|
The report showed that three counties in particular would be paying more than their fair share under Amendment 66. Boulder, Douglas and Jefferson counties would, according to the report, pay 32.2% of new Amendment 66 taxes, while only 17.7% of new funds would go into the education system in these three counties. The report also compared five school districts according to new money per child ratios. It stated that 20.9% of Colorado Students attended Jeffco, Dougco and Boulder Valley school districts - group one in the table on the right - while only 14.3% of Colorado Students were enrolled in Denver and Aurora school districts - group two in the table on the right. However, only 15% of new funds would go to Jeffco, Dougco and Boulder, while 22% of new funds would go to Denver and Aurora school districts. The report further expressed disapproval of the lack of new funds used to reward success. The report pointed out the $100 million portion of new funds dedicated to low-performing districts and used to expand learning time rather than introduce technology to make education more productive.
The report concluded that:
Amendment 66 promises to redistribute wealth and create new inequities rather than to provide better operation of schools and delivery of instruction. Starting at a billion dollars per year, Colorado parents and other taxpayers deserve more.
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University of Colorado
Two different studies from the same university approaching Amendment 66 from different angles found results that could well have caused conflict in the minds of voters.
Leeds School of Business, Boulder Campus:
A study done by Leeds School of Business found that the ballot measure would have slowed the state's economy, reducing personal income and leading to loss of private-sector jobs. It estimated a $224 million loss in economic activity in the first five years of implementing the new increased and unequal income tax rates proposed by Amendment 66.
Reiman School of Finance, Denver Campus
From the Denver Campus of CU at the Reiman School of Finance, a study had a much more sunny outlook on the effects of Amendment 66 on Colorado's economy. The study concluded that the increased spending in education would lower health care costs, increase property values and lower unemployment insurance and welfare payouts, with an overall increase in gross domestic product amounting to $139 million over the next 25 years.
Coloradans for Real Reform
Status: Ruled in favor of Colorado Commits to Kids and Amendment 66
On October 2, the group Coloradans for Real Reform, which was among the primary opponents of Amendment 66, announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging the validity of the 89,820 signatures that were used to get the measure on the ballot. The suit, officially filed by Bob Hagedorn, a former Democratic Senator, and Norma Anderson, a former Republican legislator from Lakewood, claimed that 39,555 of the signatures gathered were collected improperly and should be discounted. The initiative required 86,105 to appear on the ballot; as petitioners only gathered just under 4,000 more valid signatures than this required threshold, the court case could have proven fatal to Amendment 66 had judges ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Although it was too late to remove the question from the ballot, it was possible the votes would be ignored. The lawsuit alleged that certain signatures were not valid because the paid circulators working on the signature gathering did not follow state procedures. A statement released by Coloradans for Real Education Reform stated that the lawsuit focused on three reasons for invalidating signatures:
- the affidavits were not notarized,
- the circulators did not include their permanent address on the affidavits
- and the circulators did not present the required identification.
Anderson said, "A lot of the petition gatherers did not properly file papers, and it wasn't caught by the secretary of state."
Andrew Freedman, campaign director of Colorado Commits to Kids responded saying, "Without seeing the filing, we have no comment other than to say we are fully confident Colorado voters this fall will retain the right to vote on Amendment 66 and investing more in our schools."
Freedman was proven correct when Denver District Court Judge R. Michael Mullins gave his decision on October 15, 2013, saying that the petition process used to qualify Amendment 66 for the ballot was adequately compliant with the law. Mullins did find 114 signatures to be invalid, but this was not anywhere close to enough to put Amendment 66 in danger.
Mark Grueskin, attorney for Amendment 66 supporters, called the complaints raised by the lawsuit "hypertechnical reasons" and said that they did not really concern the validity of the signatures or the petition as a whole. Gueskin stated, "For all the concerns raised when the protest was filed, the judge didn't echo any of them, didn't find anything wrong with the petitions that put into question the secretary of state's decision to put this on the ballot."
When questioned, Bob Hagedorn, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was unsure if the decision would be appealed. He did express frustration at the decision, saying, "I'm obviously very disappointed. To be quite frank, if any vested interest spends a million dollars to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, the least we can ask is for strict compliance."
Colorado Education Association
The Colorado Education Association (CEA) is Colorado's largest teachers union and one of the most influential supporters of Colorado Commits to Kids, having donated $1,000,000 to the "yes" campaign on Amendment 66. But the CEA also said it planned to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of Senate Bill 191, which would have been funded in part by Amendment 66 revenue. SB 191 was opposed by the teachers unions. The bill altered the evaluation process for principals, teachers and any education service provider and sought to make the education system more centered around performance. It required:
- annual evaluations for all principals, teachers and specialized service providers
- evaluations based on statewide Quality Standards defining what it means to be an effective teacher or principal
- that Quality Standards account for half of an educator's annual evaluation
- that the other half of an educator's annual evaluation be based on the Quality Standard that measures student learning over time
- that non-probationary status (tenure) is earned after three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness
- and that non-probationary status is lost after two consecutive years of ineffective ratings
Although negotiations over these new rules were on going at the time of the vote on Amendment 66, a lawsuit against parts of SB 191 was reportedly still possible. The State Education Board pushed forward the deadline to sue against SB 191 by five months. The deadline fell beyond the November 2013 election, during which the fate of Amendment 66 was decided. Some people were critical of this because a little over a third of Amendment 66 funds - over $350 million - would have gone towards "highly effective teachers and principals" or, in other words, towards implementing the goals of SB 191.
In summary, the CEA poured $1,000,000 into supporting a measure that would have funded 191, even though they sought to eliminate, either through negotiation or in the courts, the basic reforms in teacher evaluation and tenure found in that bill. If their potential lawsuit was successful, it was unclear how the $350 million portion of Amendment 66 would be spent. It would have likely gone towards teacher and principal salaries, but unguided by the reformed criteria of SB 191.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, "We understand that some may use this lawsuit as a reason to oppose Amendment 66. We respectfully disagree. The best way to protect Colorado's education reforms is to support Amendment 66 this November."
Erika Stutzman, writing for the editorial board of the Daily Camera had this to say about the possible CEA lawsuit:
"However, there's talk of a challenge to the new teacher evaluation law that passed the Colorado legislature in 2010. Anti-66 groups point out that we are asking Coloradans for a genuinely sizable tax increase that will pay for teachers right at the moment the state's teacher union might be mulling a lawsuit to repeal the law that holds teachers to higher standards.
In our opinion, the law, which will go into effect next year, strikes a balance between teacher evaluations and fairness to teachers. It enforces transparent, timely methods of evaluation -- including the academic growth of students -- and states that teachers must be afforded meaningful opportunities to improve.
The Colorado State Board of Education this week passed a resolution urging the Colorado Education Association not to file a lawsuit to repeal the bill [SB 191]."
The Denver Post editorial board had this to say about the CEA:
And then there is the treacherous attitude of the Colorado Education Association to consider. Although the teachers union and National Education Association, its national counterpart, are huge donors to the Amendment 66 campaign, the CEA has admitted that it might sue to overturn a key reform aimed at teacher accountability that is already law and is being implemented this year.
In a disgusting display of narrow self-interest, the union is pursuing the amendment's money to add to its membership but rejects the responsibility that goes with it.
It's another example of why teachers unions continue to get in the way of educating our children.
Lobato vs. State of Colorado
In 2005 over 50 parents and students from school districts throughout Colorado filed a lawsuit seeking to change the state's funding model for its public schools. The lawsuit alleged that Colorado's public schools were severely underfunded and that the state's funding system did not adhere to clauses in the constitution dictating "thorough and uniform" standards (Colorado Constitution, Art. IX, Section 2) and "Local Control" (Colorado Constitution, Art. IX, Section 15) mandated by the constitution. In 2011, a state district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and declared the state's education funding "irrational and inadequate." Judge Sheila Rappaport wrote, "There is not one school district that is sufficiently funded. This is an obvious hallmark of an irrational system." The state quickly appealed Judge Rappaport's decision.
On May 28, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the district court's ruling, thus freeing the state from any legal obligation to alter its funding system. The court ruled that the state's funding system was, in fact, "thorough and uniform" and did not need any alteration to pass constitutional muster. The court did note however, that the state's education system was underfunded and that its funding model "might not be ideal policy." These findings aside, the court emphasized that it was not the judicial system's purpose to rule on policy directly, but instead rule on the constitutionality of any policy brought before it. The Colorado legislature agreed to put Amendment 66 on the ballot in the same month, May of 2013, that the court issued this decision.
| Here is a key concluding text from the court's final ruling:
You can view the Colorado Supreme Court's full opinion here.
At the time of the November 2013 election, the Colorado Public Employee's Retirement Association (PERA) was underfuned by $20 billion and its portfolio assumed an unrealistic 8% return on investment, meaning that if its investment performance falls below that rate, taxpayers would have to make up the difference. It was estimated that by 2018, school districts would be putting matching funds equal to 20% of teachers' salaries into PERA.
One of the key controversies surrounding Amendment 66 stemed from the varied answers given to the question, "Will Amendment 66 funding be dumped into the gaping hole of the Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA)?" Proponents said this was made impossible by Amendment 66's language. Colorado Commits to Kids had an entire page on its website dedicated to claiming the impossibility of Amendment 66 funds falling into the PERA fund. However, fueled by comments from Governor John Hickenlooper, opponents claimed that millions of dollars from Amendment 66 could go towards back-filling retirement benefits debt. Hickenlooper commented that once money is given to districts, it is hard to know where it goes, allegedly implying that the districts could easily use the money towards their PERA payments under the duress of climbing liabilities and employer payments.
According to Jennifer Okes, director of Public School Finance for the Colorado Department of Education, the money could not be legally used for district payments to PERA. The money was solidly earmarked for education. But the fact remained, Okes admitted, that some money from Amendment 66 would have gone to school districts general funding needs and teacher salaries, and pension payments are part a teacher's salary. This meant that, while money from Amendment 66 could not have been directly diverted to PERA, in a nuanced way, Amendment 66 money could have potentially be shuffled into PERA and Medicare payments, which were on the rise and, according to Colorado Springs School District 11 Chief Financial Officer Glenn Gustafson, were three times higher than what private employees paid for Social Security and Medicare. Despite assurances from Colorado Commits to Kid, State Rep. Millie Hamner (D-61) said, “Part of the money would go to those things (PERA, salaries, health benefits)…because that’s just part of how schools budget.” Supporters of Amendment 66 pointed out that these pension and medicare payments would have to be made regardless of whether Amendment 66 passed or not and that a fear of an ever growing PERA was irrelevant to the issue at hand.
Tony Gagliardi, Colorado state director for NFIB, and libertarian critics noted that the measure contradicted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights passed by voters in November 1992. Critics specifically highlighted the following text from Amendment 66: “[A]llowing all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval.” The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the Colorado Constitution states that any new tax or tax increase requires voter approval. The fact that Amendment 66 contained a provision authorizing the collection of tax revenues “without future voter approval” meant forfeiting constitutional taxpayer rights. Critics worried that voter approval of the amendment would set a precedent for the state government to ignore the TABOR.
Path to the ballot
To qualify a statewide initiative for the ballot in Colorado, supporters must obtain names totaling five percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of Colorado Secretary of State in the preceding general election. In 2013, this translated to a requirement of 86,105 valid signatures. The signature submission deadline was August 5, 2013.
Supporters of the initiative submitted 160,000 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state's office on August 5, 2013. After a five percent random sample was reviewed, the secretary of state determined that of the 8,286 names, 4,645 were valid and the remaining 3,641 were invalid. In order for the initiative to be immediately placed on the ballot, a verification rate of 110 percent was needed. The secretary of state announced the sample rate at 107.88 percent, meaning a line-by-line review of the submitted signatures was necessary.
The state completed its review on September 4, 2013. The secretary of state announced that 89,820 signatures were valid and certified the measure for the 2013 ballot.
Signature collection costs:
- Signatures to qualify Amendment 66 for the ballot were collected by Fieldworks, a paid petition drive management company. Fieldworks received $779,046 for its work collecting signatures.
- Using the "Cost Per Required Signature" metric, the CPRS for Amendment 66 -- considering that $779,046 was spent on signatures versus a minimum requirement of 86,105 signatures -- means that $11.05 was spent per required signature to qualify Amendment 66 for the ballot.
- Nationally, the most expensive signature collection effort in 2012 was in California, where $10.86 was spent to qualify California Proposition 30 for the ballot. California's Proposition 30 was also a tax increase to boost educational funding. The average CPRS in 2012, nationally, was $4.06.
- 2013 ballot measures
- Colorado 2013 ballot measures
- Colorado Amendment 66 (2013), Full Text of Constitutional Changes
- Colorado Senate Bill 13-213, Public School Finance Act (2013)
- The Tuesday Count: CO school tax officially certified for 2013 ballot
- SB 213 (status)
- SB 213 (text)
- Amendment 66 (text)
- Colorado State Measure Blue Book/Voter Guide for November 5, 2013
- ColoradoBallot review of Amendment 66
- Legislative Council, School District Impacts of SB 213 vs. Hypothetical $915 Million Revenue Increase with Current Formula
- Legislative Council, Charter School Funding Comparison, Current Law vs. SB13-213 (Amendment 66)
- Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, "ECONOMIC AND FISCAL IMPACTS OF AMENDMENT 66 AND THE PUBLIC SCHOOL FINANCE ACT ON THE COLORADO ECONOMY"
- Colorado Commits to Kids campaign website
- Colorado Commits to Kids Facebook account
- Colorado Commits to Kids Twitter account
- Colorado Nonprofit Association website
- Jack Strauss, "The Economic Gains to Colorado of Amendment 66," September 17, 2013
- Vince Carroll, Denver Post, "How do Colorado’s taxes actually compare?"
- Ed Is Watching, "Time to Bust Amendment 66 Myths"
- Peak Politics, "Double or Nothing: 2013’s Tax Increase Asks for Twice as Much as Failed 2011 Effort"
- Ed Is Watching, "For Aspen, Jeffco, and Others, Billion-Dollar Tax Initiative Also Happens to be Unfair"
- Colorado Peak Politics, "Bipartisan Opposition: Coalition Fighting the Billion Dollar Tax Hike Launches"
- Ed Is Watching, "Report Begs Question: Why did Colo. SB 213 Neglect Performance-Based Funding?"
- Watchdog Wire Colorado, "Billion-Dollar Colorado Education Tax Hike Holds Increased Transparency Hostage"
- Complete Colorado, "Ed. Tax Proponents Revive 49th in Spending Canard"
- Watchdog Wire Colorado, "Teachers Union Bankrolls “Colorado Commits to Kids” Statewide Tax Campaign"
- Ed Is Watching, "More Than a May Day Coincidence: SB 213 Tax Hike and “Phantom” Funding Reform"
- The Gazette, "Amendment 66: Battle over Colorado school tax draws big money, heavy hitters," October 19, 2013
- The Gazette, "Amendment 66: What it would mean to Colorado income tax bills," October 20, 2013
- Fort Morgan Local Times, "Facts of Amendment 66 disputed," October 18, 2013
- Colorado Secretary of State, "Amendments and Propositions on the Ballot 2013," accessed September 11, 2013
- Legislative Council, School District Impacts of SB 213 vs. Hypothetical $915 Million Revenue Increase with Current Formula
- EdNews Colorado, "See how your district’s funding would change under SB 13-213", September 29, 2013
- The Spot (blog), "Colorado Senate debates Mike Johnston’s bill to overhaul school finance," April 1, 2013
- Denver Post, "Colorado school finance revamp next takes tax increase to voters," May 5, 2013
- Colorado Commits to Kids website
- Colorado Department of Revenue, "Individual Income Tax," accessed September 12, 2013
- Colorado Commits to Kids, "Colorado Commits to Kids approved for ballot as Amendment 66," accessed September 12, 2013
- Steamboat Today, "No on Amendment 66: Reform is about more than dollars," October 24, 2013
- Denver Post, "Union donors push Amendment 66 proponents past $5 million mark", October 1, 2013
- The Denver Post, "Suit filed to invalidate signatures for Colorado education tax measure," October 2, 2013
- The Denver Post, "Denver judge throws out late challenge to Amendment 66," October 15, 2013
- the Gazette, "Hickenlooper says lawsuit threat could jeopardize education tax increase proposal," October 3, 2013
- Colorado Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative, Proposition 103 (2011)
- Colorado Secretary of State, "Initiative 22, Ballot title set by board," accessed August 22, 2013
- Colorado Commits to Kids,"Endorsement webpage," accessed September 19, 2013
- EdNews Colorado, "Colorado Commits tops $3 million in fundraising," September 16, 2013
- The Denver Post, "Denver Mayor Michael Hancock endorses Amendment 66", October 1, 2013
- The Colorado Statesman, "Lots of petitions, lots of work still ahead," August 12, 2013
- Colorado Commits to Kids, "Amendment 66 Explained," accessed August 14, 2013
- Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, "The PERA fiction on Amendment 66," September 9, 2013
- Stand for Children, "Amendment 66, A Vote for Kids," accessed September 19, 2013
- Tracer, Greeley Commits to Kids, committee details
- Tracer, Colorado Commits to Kids, committee details
- Tracer, Great Education Colorado Action, committee details
- Tracer, Bell Action Issue Committee, committee details
- Tracer, Stand For Children Issue Committee, committee details
- Denver Post, "Amendment 66 proponents double fundraising total in two weeks", September 16, 2013
- The Denver Post, "Bloomberg, Gates each put $1 million behind pro-Amendment 66 campaign," October 28, 2013
- Website of "Coloradans for Real Education Reform"
- Coloradans Against Using Kids as Pawns website
- Colorado Springs Gazette, "Backers of Colorado income tax hike for schools turn in signatures," August 5, 2013
- The Denver Post, "$950 million Colorado school finance measure officially on ballot," September 4, 2013
- Durango Herald, "Brophy offers schools alternative," September 12, 2013
- Denver Business Journal, "NFIB: Members oppose Colorado school tax", September 27, 2013
- Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, "Multiple reasons for Club 20’s opposition to Amendment 66," September 15, 2013
- Douglas County School District Board resolution to strongly oppose Amendment 66
- Times-Call, "Amendment 66: Former Colorado senators oppose school finance question", October 2, 2013
- 'Americans for Tax Reform website, "Amendment 66 Has It Wrong, More Money Will Not Improve Public Schools"
- Coloradans for Real Education Reform, "Initiative 22: bad for our children, for our teachers, and for Colorado’s families," accessed August 21, 2013
- Independence Institute, "Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced," August 2013
- Eagle County Times (blog), "They Want to Take Away – your Rights," August 4, 2013
- Mediatrackers.org, "Colorado’s Funding for Public Schools Initiative Hurts Small Businesses and Exacerbates Tax Inequality," August 8, 2013
- Trail Gazette, "School board president opposes Amend. 66," October 12, 2013
- Coloradan.com, "May: Amendment 66 is bad for business," October 19, 2013
- Tracer, "Kids Before Unions", committee details
- Tracer, "Coloradans For Real Education Reform", committee details
- The Denver Post, "Colorado's schools need Amendment 66", October 3, 2013
- Daily Camera, "Yes on Amendment 66," October 13, 2013
- The Boulder Weekly, "Election Guide 2013: Yes on Colorado Amendment 66 and Proposition AA," October 17, 2013
- The Greeley Tribune, "Tribune Opinion: Amendment 66 just too good to pass up," October 14, 2013
- Aurora Sentinel, "EDITORIAL: Yes on Amendment 66 — A reasonable proposal to move lagging students ahead," October 17, 2013
- Colorado Springs Gazette, "Beware, 'education' tax hike might not actually do much for schools," July 14, 2013
- The Pueblo Chieftain "Income tax hike," October 6, 2013
- Magellan Strategies Amendment 66 survey
- 9News.com, "Opposition poll shows weak support for education tax hike," September 23, 2013
- Jack Strauss, "The Economic Gains to Colorado of Amendment 66," September 17, 2013
- Colorado Center on Law and Policy, "Investing in education will boost Colorado economy," accessed September 19, 2013
- Education Policy Center, "Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced," updated September 6, 2013
- Independence Institute: Issue Backgrounder; Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced
- The Daily Sentinel, "Voters have at least two avenues to travel in deciding education tax," October 13, 2013
- the Denver Post, "Carroll: The threat hanging over Colorado's Amendment 66," September 24, 2013
- Colorado Department of Education, Overview of Senate Bill 10-191
- The Denver Post, "Colorado's schools need Amendment 66," October 3, 2013
- Huffington Post (blog), "Colorado Education Underfunded By 'Unconscionable' Billions, Judge Rules," December 12, 2011
- The Denver Post, "Amendment 66 backers fail to make case for higher taxes," September 20, 2013
- Huffington Post (blog), "Lobato Case Decision: Colorado Supreme Court Finds Education Funding System Constitutional," May 29, 2013
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- Summit Daily, "Irvine: Reading, writing and Amendment 66," October 21, 2013
- Colorado Springs Independent, "So, can Amendment 66 money be used for PERA?," October 17, 2013
- The Durango Herald, "Nuances are crucial with Amendment 66," October 23, 2013
- Associated Press, "Colorado school tax supporters turn in petitions to put measure on ballot as campaign begins," August 5, 2013
- WatchNewspapers.com, "School Funding Initiative Is Delayed, Pending Signature Review," August 27, 2013
- Associated Press, "Ballot Measure on Schools Tax Still Uncertain," August 17, 2013
- Associated Press, "Tax proposal for Colorado schools makes ballot," September 4, 2013
- Expenditure detail, Colorado Commits to Kids, July 1, 2013 report
- Expenditure detail, Colorado Commits to Kids, August 1, 2013 report
- Expenditure detail, Colorado Commits to Kids, September 3, 2013 report
- Expenditure detail, Colorado Commits to Kids, September 16, 2013 report