Criticisms of Proposition 119 do not add up

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By Tony Lewis and Christopher Castilian

Leaders from all walks of life are voting for Proposition 119, a marijuana tax that funds tutoring and other extracurricular classes for low-income Colorado students. After a year of quarantines and closures caused by COVID, and more than 20 years of persistent poor performance for low-income students, Proposition 119 is a smart and balanced proposition to provide struggling students with meaningful educational support.

Nearly 95,000 low-income Colorado students would be eligible to receive one-on-one tutoring if 119 is approved by voters. Countless studies have shown that teaching one-on-one outside of the classroom is the best way to catch up with struggling children.

Two of Boulder’s most respected leaders in recent political history – former US Senator Mark Udall and former Speaker of the House KC Becker – support 119. So do progressive leaders such as Wellington Webb and Federico Pena, as well as children’s advocates like the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the Boys and Girls Club and Firefly Autism.

Unfortunately, an October 8 editorial (Rollie and Josie Heath: No on Proposition 119) in the Daily Camera suggests that 119 was somehow bad for students and teachers. The play was so deceptive as to be dishonest. As individuals who have worked on Colorado State Trust Land and to improve the Colorado public school education system, we wanted to correct the bolder claims.

The article argued that 119 will not really help low-income students. It was a downright false statement. LEAP’s statutory language makes it clear that it “must prioritize low-income families with children or youth who could not otherwise afford learning opportunities”. The LEAP program is bound by this prioritization in 2022, 2023, 2024 and all subsequent years.

Contrary to what was written in the article, there will be oversight of the LEAP program and transparency within the board. Several state agencies will exercise fiscal oversight over the program, including the Office of the State Treasurer, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Office of the State Comptroller, and the Office of the External Auditor. Board members are selected by the governor-elect, who will select future board members based on the recommendations of the initial board, as well as taking into account anyone wishing to apply for a position. to the board of directors. It is open to all.

Proposition 119 does not take any money away from Colorado classrooms. State law requires the permanent public schools fund to deposit the same amount of money – $ 21 million – into the school finance act each year whether 119 passes or not. It also does not change the amount of state land council revenue spent on the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which funds the construction and renovation of schools.

Additionally, marijuana taxes will fund 80% of the LEAP program in its first full year and even more once the new marijuana tax is fully implemented. Yes, revenue from crown owned land makes up the rest of the budget, but we believe it is a smart and wise use of those dollars.

The permanent fund, where some state land revenue is deposited, requires a delicate balance for the benefit of current and future generations of Colorado youth. As state senator, Rollie Heath, author of the previous article, voted in favor of several bills that negatively impacted the growth of the permanent fund. Three bills he voted for diverted more than $ 146 million of state land council revenue from the permanent fund. But it was to help the acute needs of today’s Colorado youth. Likewise, the LEAP program is focused on the needs of current Colorado youth, while depositing $ 20 million annually into the permanent fund.

The Blue Book estimates that if LEAP is successful, more than $ 100 million will be available each year to Colorado youth from low-income families starting in the summer of 2023 for educational activities. He also estimates that the permanent fund’s interest income will be reduced by $ 3 million per year if LEAP passes. A difference of $ 100 million versus $ 3 million to help current Colorado youth. We believe Colorado’s youth today are just as important as future generations, and Proposition 119 will provide much needed educational opportunities now.

Tony Lewis is a longtime public school advocate residing in Boulder County. Christopher Castilian is a public policy specialist who seeks to improve the educational outcomes of Colorado’s most vulnerable populations.

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