TABOR talk will focus on K12 funding – Telluride Daily Planet: News
Stephen Elliott, Staff ReporterTellurideNews.com
The state of Colorado ranks 47th nationwide in K12 funding and, according to a recent Colorado Fiscal Institute study, spends more than $2,000 less per student than the national average.
According to education advocates, those less-than-stellar numbers are thanks in part to restrictions placed on schools by TABOR, the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a significant but little-understood amendment to the state constitution in place since 1992.
Several local groups will educate parents and taxpayers about TABOR and other K12 funding issues at an event Friday with a representative from the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The event is 1:30-3 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library and is presented by Bright Futures and WeR-1 (the Telluride Education Foundation).
“TABOR is having a significant negative impact on K12 funding, and it’s time to act on it in order for our schools to be fully funded,” said Kathleen Merritt, the executive director of Bright Futures, a Telluride-based nonprofit that supports children from birth through third grade. “It would behoove everyone to be informed about what TABOR is, why it came about and the impact it’s having.”
This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. Colorado’s economy is hot. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. And shiny new skyscrapers are rising all over Denver as revelers pour fistfuls of cash into downtown bars and restaurants.
But no one invited Colorado’s public schools to the party.
“They have outdated technology, larger class sizes. They’ve lost the opportunity to offer certain programs. They can’t retain teachers. They can’t attract teachers,” says Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, a nonprofit research group. “They’ve had fewer school days, furlough days, all sorts of maintenance issues.”
The list goes on. Many educators and parents had hoped that, as Colorado’s economy roared back from the Great Recession, the nearly $5 billion that lawmakers had cut from the state’s public schools would come back with it.
They were wrong.
“I was told that an improved economy would mean cuts would continue,” says Shannon Bird. The concerned mother of two school-age children lives north of Denver and has made several trips to the state Capitol to lobby for more funding. “Lawmakers told me their hands are tied.”
How is it that the nation’s 14th richest state ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student? Especially in a year that taxpayers can expect rebate checks from the state totaling $156 million?
Most Restrictive In The Country
The simple answer is, that’s what voters wanted. In 1992, they amended the state’s constitution with something called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
Colorado’s Budget Settled, Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds « CBS Denver .
April 19, 2016 1:57 PM
DENVER (AP) – It’s late in Colorado’s legislative session, and next year’s budget is settled. But the Democratic House speaker is reviving a debate on whether a Medicaid fee should count as state revenue that will trigger tax refunds in future budget years.
Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, want the fee set aside to avoid refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, free millions of dollars for Colorado’s underfunded roads and schools, and give momentum to pending ballot initiatives that would ease TABOR’s grip on state finances.
It’s a debate that some thought settled well before both chambers approved the $27 billion budget last week. Not so, said Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat.
“In this budget we managed to get by, but next year it will be twice as bad with cuts in education and higher education,” she said. The House could debate her bill this week.
Hullinghorst said reclassifying the fee can provide at least five years’ flexibility to spend more on schools and roads, and tackle TABOR and other constitutional restrictions on budget writers’ room to maneuver.
TABOR requires refunds whenever total state income surpasses a cap that’s based on inflation and population, not the economy’s performance.
State lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would eliminate tax refunds and give the state more money to spend.Colorado is collecting so much money that it has to send some of it back to residents, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
But Democrats say there’s a big pot of money in the state budget that shouldn’t count toward the TABOR limit. It’s a fee hospitals pay that the state spends on expanding health coverage for the poor.
The new bill changes how the state accounts for this fee, making it exempt from TABOR. That would effectively allow the state to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars it would otherwise have to pay out in tax rebates.
A separate measure, which would only apply to next year, directs lawmakers to spend the extra money on transportation, local governments, and schools.
The fee-change bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican, says the change could help rural hospitals in his southeastern district.
However the Republicans who control the state Senate strongly oppose the reclassification, calling it an end-run around TABOR.
House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst said she tried to work with Senate leaders.
“There didn’t seem to be a way that we could get together,” she said. “And I felt that we had to move forward.”
DENVER – The speaker of the Colorado House said negotiations have reached a “stalemate” on a long-debated and highly anticipated proposal to retain more state revenue through an accounting change that would eliminate TABOR refunds in future years.
The prospects for the bills Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst introduced Monday are poor in the Republican-dominated Senate.
One of the bills reauthorizes a fee charged on hospital stays so that millions of dollars go into an enterprise fund that is exempt from the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other bill spends the revenue the state would retain if the first bill passes.
Does your group or organization need a dynamic speaker and timely topic for your next meeting?
How about learning more on a subject that saves you money and stops the explosive growth of government spending?
You’ve heard of TABOR (The Taxpayers Bill Of Rights), haven’t you?
It’s been in the news quite a bit lately.
Why not use the TABOR Speakers Bureau for your next meeting?
We take the time to explain “what” TABOR is along with what it does—or doesn’t do, “how” it works, “why” it’s so important to Colorado, “when” Coloradans get TABOR refunds, and “how” it impacts you. Continue reading →
DENVER – In a tight budget year in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to take more than $200 million that’s set to go back to taxpayers under TABOR and put that money towards new programs for education and roads. GOP leadership, however, argues that’s unconstitutional.
“Right now no one can say with a straight face that our budget rules are working for us,” Hickenlooper said Thursday in his State of the State address.
A Colorado Springs state senator who chairs the senate education committee believes that plan only hurts Coloradans’ wallets.
“When we’re supposed to give several hundred million dollars back to citizens they want to move it out from TABOR so it doesn’t hit us up against that constitutional cap and how much money the government can take in, so they can keep more of people’s money,” Sen. Owen Hill said. “That’s a non-starter in an economy that continues to be sluggish, we continue to struggle with higher levels of unemployment than we should.”
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Brian Ewert, Littleton Public Schools, left back and Dan McMinimee, Jefferson County Public Schools right back listen to speakers advocate for increased education funding at the state capitol.
About a hundred teachers, school board members, union activists and others gathered Monday at the Colorado Capitol to support superintendents from across Colorado in their effort to increase funding for their school districts.
The exact number of superintendents on hand was not known, but organizers say superintendents from 167 of the 178 districts in Colorado support the efforts, which started with many lobbying legislators to support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, says the Hospital Provider Fee is nothing more than a bed tax*.
The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR and leave the state free to fund other programs such as education. Superintendents say that since 2010 they have lost $5 billion in funding due to the “Negative Factor,” a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year.
The education funding battle enters its next round with a new online database supporting superintendents across the state in their effort to convince legislators to spend more money on their districts.
Although schools have been calling for more money since the 2008 recession spawned the “Negative Factor,” this most recent campaign first started shortly after the November election with the superintendent of Littleton Public Schools mailing a flyer to 47,000 residents in his district.
The Negative Factor is a budgeting mechanism used by the Colorado General Assembly to restrain total spending on public education while still allowing base spending to rise by enrollment plus inflation each year. The negative factor reduces funding to school finance factors not covered by Amendment 23, which include school district size, local cost-of-living, and the number of low-income kids in a district. The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that the negative factor is constitutional.
The flyer, which cost the district nearly $10,000, urged residents to contact legislators and support reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it falls outside the requirements of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The move would free up hundreds of millions of dollars under TABOR, despite the fact that many view the “fee” as a tax.
LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert told the Parent Teachers Association that he expects 168 of the state’s 178 school districts to do the same.
It now appears that the head of the state’s second-largest district has joined Ewert in the effort.