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Greeley’s Pro-Amendment 66 Fliers Come Up Short on Eddie’s Truth Check

‘Tis the season for the DVR in our house. Political ads are back in Colorado, including ones making wildly exaggerated promises about Amendment 66. You know, the billion-dollar statewide tax increase allegedly “for the kids.” Thankfully, some local TV journalists have been willing to look under the hood of the Rube Goldberg proposal and call out the misleading rhetoric.

Well, I’m too young for my own TV spot, but little old Eddie wants to give it a try with this pro-66 flier being handed out in Greeley. Let me respond to some of the points in turn:

1. For Greeley-Evans taxpayers — $3 return on $1.

They’re referring to how much new revenue local schools will get for each new tax dollar area residents will pay. It’s certainly a better deal than a .62 return in Gunnison, a .59 return in Boulder County, a .56 return in Jefferson County, a .50 return in Douglas County, or a .20 return in Steamboat Springs. But it also means, taxpayers all across the rest of Weld County will be turning over more of their hard-earned funds to low-performing District 6.

2.Good schools are fundamental for our economic future

Who can disagree with that? Except more taxes and more funding for more of the same offers no guarantee of getting us there. Look at this stunning Cato Institute graph that shows the nation’s 40-year trend, or this chart from the new book Endangering Prosperity that draws a nearly flat-line ZERO correlation for states between funding increases and improved test scores.

3. District 6 commits to student and educator performance.

The school district’s sub-par track record is highlighted by my Education Policy Center friends in a recent issue backgrounder.

4. All Greeley-Evans students in charter and public schools benefit from Amendment 66 with an estimated $27.8 million per year in new funding.

I don’t dispute the numbers they share, but it’s an open-ended question whether the funds will benefit students or adults. And don’t get me started on the ignorance of trying to distinguish charter schools from “public schools,” because charters are public schools. And not all charter schools get more money out of this deal.

5. It increases transparency and accountability at the state, district, school and teacher level.

Well, the accountable reform is already taking place, but the teachers unions reserve the right to sue and stop the reform after they get their extra money. The increased transparency bit, if it’s true, costs far less than a billion dollars. And according to the language of SB 213, much less than what pro-66 Gov. John Hickenlooper is saying it will cost. Which is true?

Another page of “Frequently Asked Questions” from the same group needs some further correction:

  • They try to convince readers that the School Educational Achievement Fund’s delivery of dollars to school districts means it is “constitutionally protected from any use other than for improvements in the classroom” — but over the last 12 years, while student enrollment and teachers and teacher aides have increased by 19 percent, Colorado school districts have hired 51 percent more administrators
  • The flier says it “would be unconstitutional to bail out PERA using any of this money,” though the governor admits otherwise
  • “Charter schools that own or lease their own facilities will get $450 per student in facilities funding” IF there’s enough new revenue available and if they haven’t received a construction grant from the state’s BEST program
  • “Every district’s overall funding will increase,” they say, without consulting the 20 districts that will end up with fewer dollars per student — including 2 (one in Weld County!) that will end up with fewer dollars period!
  • This one makes my head spin: They say that “SB213 AND Amendment 66 tie funding to…success metrics” because of a study every four years that compiles old information for the legislature in a new way, when no dollars at all are tied to rewarding performance at the classroom, school, or district level — they can’t point to it, because it doesn’t exist

Wow, I spent more time doing that than I had planned. Guess that gives me more respect for those TV journalists debunking political ads. This is tiring work, but somebody has to do it.