Denver Post Adds a Little Institute Balance to School Tax Hike Coverage

When you’re a Colorado reporter looking for a somewhat different point of view on major local school tax increases, where do you go? Karen Auge shows that she read my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s concise new paper “Colorado K-12 Tax Hikes Challenged” in her story’s third paragraph as she covered the issue in yesterday’s Denver Post:

The Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank generally opposed to tax hikes and government growth, said per-pupil spending in districts asking for tax hikes has gone up, even as real income has decreased. [link added]

What can I say? The facts cited above certainly help to balance the story. And the Institute certainly welcomes the credit for compiling the information. But it’s not a matter of my friends saying per-pupil spending generally has increased while household incomes have slipped. To be more precise, it’s data from the Colorado Department of Education and U.S. Census Bureau, with a little Colorado-specific inflation adjustment to round it out.

While we’re on a roll, here’s another piece of information to toss out for public consumption into the debate. A nonpartisan legislative analysis released last month projected that an additional $678.5 million will be available for the State Education Fund next June. How much of the money ends up in K-12 education will be up to legislators.

But if all the money were available for schools, that would mean roughly an additional $62 million for Jeffco, $50 million for Denver, and $40 million for Cherry Creek Schools. Interestingly, in each case that amount is equal to or greater than the annual tax increase they ask of local voters. How that will play out when tax proposal supporters have raised a lot more money than opponents remains to be seen.

Those looking for more information on tax-raising ballot issues in Colorado, not just for schools, can check out this handy website.