TABOR talk will focus on K12 funding – Telluride Daily Planet: News
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.
“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.”
Chris Stiffler, an economist at the Colorado Fiscal Institute, will present on the topic and answer questions at the event. Merritt said Stiffler’s talk would be nonpartisan and fact-based. The talk will also cover other constitutional and state-level issues that have an impact on K12 funding.
One of the state issues that impacts K12 funding is the so-called “Negative Factor.” According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, legislators decided in 2009 that only certain parts of the school finance formula had to grow with inflation, which allowed reductions to state school funding in order to balance the general state budget. According to CFI data, funding for K12 education in 2014 was $891 million less than it would have been without the Negative Factor, translating to a 15 percent funding reduction for each school district.
Telluride R-1 School District Board President Paul Reich said TABOR and the Negative Factor have resulted in nearly $1 million in lost funds for Telluride schools this year. Parents, students and community members might not notice the lack of funding, he said, because the schools will continue to offer the same services at the same level, unlike, for example, a business that loses significant revenue and must cut services.
“We’re the only state in the union that doesn’t allow our legislators to levy taxes; it takes a vote by the people,” Reich said. “There’s not any incentive for Rep. Don Coram or Sen. Ellen Roberts to stick their neck out and say, ‘We should raise taxes.’ It makes it really hard for K12 education and other aspects of government.”
Telluride, like other wealthier mountain communities, has been fortunate to weather the Negative Factor, Reich said, largely because of highly-assessed property values and other funding sources. That creates more disparity between the rich and poor, he said. But the extra money wouldn’t hurt in Telluride, either.
“What could we do if we had that extra million dollars?” Reich asked. “There’s a lot we could do with it.”