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Grassroots Campaign to Protect CO Schools

May 17, 2011

DENVER - Cuts to schools, or higher taxes. That's the choice presented to Coloradans in a new campaign designed to stem the cutbacks in education statewide. The campaign is called "Save Our Schools" and it's spearheaded by State Senator Rollie Heath. The Boulder Democrat is gathering signatures for ballot Initiative 25, a proposal that would increase state sales and income taxes and dedicate the money to education, both K-12 and higher ed.

Longmont parent Laura McDonald, who is gathering signatures for the initiative, thinks a special election is a great idea because lawmakers' hands are tied. She says TABOR - the Taxpayer Bill of Rights - prevents them from increasing Colorado taxes.

"It's not up to our legislators to raise revenue for things like education. The only tool that they have available to them is to make cuts when you have downturns in the economy. It's up to us, the voters, to make sure that our voice is heard."

The proposal would temporarily raise the state sales tax by one tenth of one percent and income tax by less than half of one percent, costing a family about 163 dollars a year. Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp Monday criticized the proposal, saying it was tone-deaf to the economic concerns of Colorado families and businesses and that it would hinder economic growth.

McDonald disagrees. She says she's been gathering signatures for a week, and people are telling her they support higher funding for education.

"It's not a partisan issue. It's not Republicans versus Democrats. I think that no matter which side you're on, you still support education."

She notes that the state cut funding from school budgets for three years in a row, resulting in closed schools and diminished services, and she fears more cuts next year.

"These are on top of each other, year after year of cuts. And the first year for this initiative, it's estimated it would bring in just over $500 million, which would at least help offset the cuts."

If approved, the increased taxes would be only temporary, expiring after five years.

Information on the ballot initiative campaign can be found at conta.cc/jZfaYN

Kathleen Ryan/Deb Courson, Public News Service - CO