Colorado Voters Reject $1B Education Tax, School Boards Shift Toward Reform

Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 66, a $1 billion income tax increase for school funding. The funding was approved by lawmakers earlier this year but required voter approval to take effect, where the measure lost by a 66.2% to 33.8% margin.

The measure would have raised income taxes from 4.63% to 5% for taxable income up to $75,000 a year. Income above $75,000 would have been taxed at 5.9%, writes Kristen Wyatt of The Associated Press.

Officials estimated the tax increases would have taken nearly $1 billion a year more from residents, making it the largest tax increase in Colorado history.

"Today Coloradans rejected an imperfect bill to reform our education system that left open too many unanswered questions. Having spent the last eight months arguing this particular bill was not the right path for Coloradans tonight's result does not mean education reform is dead in Colorado. We will go back to the drawing board to reform our vitally important public education system the right way," Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton said in a statement.

In closely watched races in Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties and Thompson Valley schools, voters swept reform-minded school board candidates into all open seats, according to Nancy Lofholm of The Denver Post.

Voters, however, rejected conservative and Tea Party backed candidates in Mesa County on the Western Slope. All the Front Range candidates backed by big-money donors, including some high profile out-of-staters like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, claimed school board seats in Denver and Douglas County school districts.

Voters elected all four conservative candidates in the Thompson Valley school district, while voters elected three conservatives in Jefferson County.

Colorado businessmen Edward McVaney and Ralph Nagel donated to more than 18 school board candidates across the state with their candidates having mixed results. McVaney and Nagel, in particular, backed pro-voucher, anti-union candidates.

Colorado has been a hotbed of debate over visions for the public schools of the future, from policy and political issues to district-level details. Jefferson County Schools in Colorado recently selected the controversial InBloom to provide a data management system for storing contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district's 86,000 students. InBloom offers a solution that could collect information from the district's many databases and store it in the cloud to make access easier and protect data with high-level encryption, but parents are worried about safety and privacy.

11 13, 2013
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