To the Editor:
I was pleased to read the CSBJ’s October 2 opinion of the need to deal with TABOR and the resulting stranglehold on state and local government. However, the Journal’s assertion that Amendment 23 is a parallel contributor toward crippling the state’s ability to fund much-needed projects is misleading. It is true that, if honored, Amendment 23 would require the state to spend $337 million more on K-12 education next year, as mentioned in the Journal. However, it is equally true that our current governor and General Assembly have absolutely no plan for honoring the intent of Amendment 23 and haven’t done so since 2010.
What is routinely misunderstood and even more underreported is the fact that in 2010, the Colorado Legislature employed some very creative accounting by inserting what is now known as the “negative factor” into Colorado’s school finance law. This negative factor, while admittedly legal, has allowed the General Assembly to blatantly reject the intent of one constitutional amendment (Amendment 23) while simultaneously holding sacred all tenets of another (TABOR).
According to both the independent Colorado Office of the State Auditor and the non-partisan Legislative Council, the negative factor resulted in actual reductions to state K-12 funding in 2012, 2013 and 2014 … clearly not the annual increases voters anticipated and the Colorado Constitution promised via Amendment 23. In a speech last week before supporters of Great Education Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper indicated that next year the negative factor would expand even more, meaning that once again, the funding that citizens, and the media, expect schools to receive because voters approved Amendment 23 won’t be forthcoming.
In the end, the Journal got it right; it is time to deal with TABOR, but K-12 funding and the voters, intent for Amendment 23 should be added to the list of TABOR fiscal casualties, not characterized as an equal villain.
— Dr. Walt Cooper
Superintendent of Schools, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12