Opinion

Let’s unite to improve Colorado’s schools — in ways Amendment 73 couldn’t

Author: Luke Ragland - November 8, 2018 - Updated: November 8, 2018

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Luke Ragland

The campaign is over. Coloradans have spoken. While voters wisely said No to Amendment 73, we don’t believe this was a referendum on education, but rather a misguided measure that would have stifled our economy, cost jobs, placed a hefty burden on small business and choked special districts.

Education is the cornerstone of Colorado’s future. We all support better schools for our students and higher pay for our hard-working teachers.

As Colorado thinks about possible solutions for education challenges, it is vital that a range of voices and viewpoints are heard. A big tent approach to refining and reforming education funding is a critical step toward building consensus behind effective solutions.

It is not the time for both sides to retreat to their respective corners. Policies crafted by small groups of like-minded individuals and interests are rarely as well thought out — or politically successful — as are reforms crafted with broad-based input.

That’s why as co-chairs of the No on Amendment 73, we want to use this moment to offer proactive steps that Colorado can take immediately to expand educational opportunity. We hope Colorado’s policymakers and school leaders consider these actions:

  • Encourage local superintendents and school boards to prioritize teacher pay. Funding over the last 25 years has increased, but teachers’ salaries have not kept pace. The state is projecting that it will have over a $1 billion budget surplus next year, and schools are likely to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding. School leaders must prioritize teacher salaries in their budgets.
  • Overhaul the way Colorado distributes education funding by putting the focus solely on students’ needs. The way Colorado distributes education funding is indefensible, outdated, and inequitable.  The state should eliminate or greatly decrease the cost of living factor in the school finance formula, which intentionally takes money from low income areas and gives it to wealthy areas.
  • Give more power to those closest to our kids. Parents must have greater control over their kids’ educational experiences; teachers need to be empowered to make decisions; and school leaders need more control of their own budgets.
  • Reduce the regulatory burdens on teachers and school leaders. Administrative growth has exploded over the last seven years, mostly in response to decades of growing regulation. The number of students has increased by 6 percent; the number of teachers has increased by 8 percent, but the number of central office administrators has increased by over 34 percent.  We should eliminate regulations that impinge on school-level decision-making.

Along with my co-chairs of the campaign to defeat Amendment 73, Katie Kruger and Dave Davia, I commit to working with supporters to further these goals.  Thankfully, there are two major stakeholder efforts already underway in Colorado that provide a forum for fresh ideas that can form the basis for a united strategy moving forward: The bipartisan school finance interim committee and the governor’s bipartisan Education Leadership Commission. The prime proponents and opponents of Amendment 73 are already participating in both of these processes.  More fundamentally, every Coloradan has a responsibility to engage with their local school leaders and legislators to help move Colorado’s schools forward.

Every child deserves to have access to an education that provides them with the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Colorado is #1 in the nation in so many other statistics; it is time we become #1 in education. We are committed to making that goal a reality.  But we know that a massive tax increase that is not tied to results is not going to make a difference for Colorado’s kids.  We hope that both sides of this debate will set aside differences, roll up their sleeves, and work together to come up with real solutions.

Luke Ragland

Luke Ragland

Luke Ragland is president of Ready Colorado, a conservative education policy organization. He is co-chair of the No on Amendment 73 campaign.