Colorado School District Spending Requirements, Initiative 39 (2006)

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The Colorado School District Spending Requirements Initiative, also known as Initiative 39, was on the November 7, 2006 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have required that each of the state's public school districts would have to spend at least 65% of its operational expenditures each year on classroom instruction.[1]

Election results

Colorado Initiative 39 (2006)
Defeatedd No944,73562.39%
Yes 569,483 37.61%

Election results via:Colorado Secretary of State Elections Department.

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1][2]

An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a requirement that in each state fiscal year a school district spend at least 65% of its operational expenditures on classroom instruction, with limited exceptions.[3]

Summary and analysis

The Colorado Legislative Council is charged with providing a summary and analysis of each measure on the Colorado ballot. ("The state constitution requires that the nonpartisan research staff of the General Assembly prepare these analyses and distribute them in a ballot information booklet to registered voter households.")

To describe Amendment 39, they said:

Decisions on how to spend money to operate public schools are made by locally elected school boards in each school district, with certain exceptions. Under current law, districts have to set aside money for school supplies and books, buildings and insurance, and services for at-risk students. On average, these earmarked purposes accounted for roughly $600 per pupil in school year 2004-05, or nearly 8 percent of school district operating budgets. Both Amendment 39 and Referendum J propose to add a new requirement: that each school district spend at least 65 percent of its operating budget on the items listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Examples of Items Included in the 65-Percent Requirement in Amendment 39 and Referendum J

Colorado Amendment 39 explanatory chart one.PNG

In addition to applying the 65-percent requirement to different items, the two proposals define an operating budget differently. As a result, the proposals will affect districts differently. Table 2 compares spending on the items required by each proposal using average school district spending per pupil from the 2004-05 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.

Colorado Amendment 39 explanatory chart two.PNG

Data on individual school district spending indicate that under both proposals some school districts would not have met the 65-percent requirement in the 2004-05 school year. If the requirements were in place in 2004-05, 166 school districts would have fallen short by a total of $278 million under Amendment 39. Three districts would have fallen short by a total of $1 million under Referendum J.

A district that spends less than the 65-percent threshold must increase spending on the specified items by two percentage points per year until the requirement is met. Alternatively, a district may seek a waiver from the requirements.

Each year, school district spending records are audited and reported to state and federal education agencies. The data are organized by category to show the amount spent on such items as classroom instruction, support staff, administration, and buildings. These reports will be used to determine compliance with the 65-percent requirement, although some modification to the categories may be required. The State Board of Education is responsible for approving the types of data that are reported in each category.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the Colorado Legislative Council said:

Determining school district compliance with Amendment 39's expenditure requirements is expected to increase state costs by about $50,000 per year and may also increase school district costs by requiring more detailed tracking of expenditures and additional budget planning to conform with Amendment 39. Additionally, while Amendment 39 does not increase funding for public education, an estimated 166 of 178 districts will have to increase spending on the specified items by a total of $278 million to meet its requirements. This estimate is based on 2004-05 spending.



Groups working in support of the amendment included:

  • First Class Education
  • First Class Education Colorado
  • I Am Voting Yes On Amendment 39.

Arguments in favor

Supporters argued that:

  • Amendment 39 would increase funding for classroom instruction without having to raise taxes.
  • It would require school districts to focus their resources on educating students and to be more efficient with other spending.
  • More money could therefore be available to pay teachers.
  • Spending in the classroom might increase by as much as $278 million statewide.
  • Each school district would reach its own decisions about how to comply with the 65% requirement.[4]


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $47,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $1,324,446

$47,000 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Amendment 39.[5]

Amendment 39 had two donors of more than $20,000. They were:

Donor Amount
First Class Education $25,000
Tim Mooney $22,000



Groups opposing Amendment 39 included:

  • Coloradans For Excellent Schools
  • Communities For Quality Education Colorado Ballot Fund
  • The Bell Ballot Action
  • People For The American Way Voters Alliance of Colorado.

Arguments against

Opponents said that Amendment 39's drawbacks were:

  • Failing to account for the important differences among the 178 school districts in Colorado.
  • No guarantee of improved student achievement.
  • School districts that don't meet the new requirement might have to divert money from support functions and positions that help teachers teach.
  • Nurses, guidance counselors, and principals are essential but don't count toward the 65% spending requirement.
  • Other important expenditures would also not be part of the 65% portion.[4]


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $47,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $1,324,446

$1,324,446 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Amendment 39.[6]

Donors of $25,000 and more were:

Donor Amount
National Education Association $792,000
Colorado Federation of Teachers $120,000
Colorado Association of School Executives $46,000
Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association $25,000

See also

List of measures

External links

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