Hey, Colorado: Billion Dollar K-12 Tax Hike OR End the Education Plantation?

Often it’s very easy to get bogged down in a big education policy debate like Colorado’s SB 213 school finance reform proposal. Then along comes a Denver Post op-ed piece by a motivated citizen that exhales a breath of fresh air:

Colorado currently spends about $10,600 per student per year on K-12 education. You can get a pretty good private education for that. Sen. Johnston wants to increase school spending to nearly $12,000 per student. But without changing the design of the system, why should anyone expect different results?

Let’s stop funding the education establishment and instead fund parents and children. In a state-regulated environment, let’s give that $10,000 to parents for each child they have in school and let them decide how and where the money used to educate their children should be spent.

The author is Littleton’s own John Conlin, founder of the small nonprofit activist group End the Education Plantation. True fans may recall his appearance several months ago in an on-air interview with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow.

Conlin has shown a strong and singular focus on ensuring K-12 dollars are directed by the family to follow the student. A bold idea that also happens to be almost a world apart from the tepid “reforms” in SB 213, it reminds me of how Arizona has led the way in offering “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” to a growing number of students, starting with special-needs kids like Jordan Visser:

Kind of takes you back to the stories of a couple other students — one from Arizona and one from our own Douglas County — in making a stronger case for expanded school choice. Don’t you agree?

SB 213 has a good chance of passing through the legislature only with Democratic Party support and the governor’s signature. Of course, none of the actual policies go into effect without the billion-dollar tax increase, which we don’t even know what it will look like yet. So as the process keeps moving forward, Coloradans have to ask:

Do we want to continue rewarding the current power structures, even when they fail, or do we want to empower the students who receive the education? Talk about a radical change… and a true breath of fresh air.