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Vote ‘no’ on Prop. 119; it’s not in the best interest of Colorado kids or taxpayers

Supporters of Proposition 119 are misleading voters. This misguided proposal would cut millions of dollars that support classroom supplies, educational programming and teacher salaries from public education to pay for privatized education services, including religious-based institutions.

Work should be undertaken to properly fund public education, not take money out of classrooms where teachers often use their personal money to buy textbooks and school supplies. This measure was crafted by dark money conservative groups to sound great, but really is “too good to be true.” In reality, Proposition 119 is a tax increase on Colorado businesses and creates an unelected, unaccountable board with sole discretion for spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year with no public accountability or oversight.

These private programs would syphon off almost $56 million from our schools in the first year, growing to $138 million by the 2024-25 school year. The annual budget of this new bureaucracy would equal nearly twice the annual budget of the entire Colorado Department of Education. Public education money must stay in public schools so we can recruit and retain the best teachers in Colorado – not create more bureaucracy.

This measure is not in the best interests of our kids or Colorado taxpayers. It would allow the newly created board to give themselves exorbitant salaries from public funds without any oversight whatsoever and without any limit on the amount that could be allocated to administrative expenses. In addition, there is no guarantee it would help our most vulnerable student populations. The private providers selected by the board could simply refuse to serve students with disabilities or other groups of disadvantaged children.

In addition to taking marijuana taxes, this measure would redirect millions of dollars from the State Land Trust, which was designed specifically to fund public education, particularly for rural Colorado children, and deliver it into private hands, giving the money to out-of-state or even foreign companies. Proposition 119 has no local control or accountability and would devastate the state education budget.

This siphoning of money may violate the Enabling Act of the Colorado Constitution, which has protected State Land Trust money for our public schools for more than 150 years. The measure would be devastating to our local school districts, which are already among the most poorly-funded classrooms in the nation, ranking 47th in the country in per-pupil spending. Rural Colorado would suffer disproportionately from the diverted money and current teacher shortages would become even worse.

Proposition 119 is a scam that reduces our students’ chances of success by taking money from our public school teachers and classrooms and giving it to private providers to do whatever they choose: teach inaccurate history lessons, allow religious groups to indoctrinate our kids with extreme ideas or whatever. For more information, visit https://noonprop119.com.

Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids is leading the “Yes on Prop 119” campaign. The committee reported $1.85 million in contributions and $1.67 million in expenditures. Gary Community Investment Co. gave $1.45 million and, together with Ready Colorado, were the source of 94% of the contributions. Who are these groups and why are they spending all this money to pass Proposition 119?

Proposition 119 is opposed by Taxpayers for Public Education, a Colorado-based, bipartisan 501(c)(4) organization whose members are Colorado taxpayers and parents of children enrolled in public schools. In opposing the initiative, they said “(Prop 119) is a school voucher scheme that would undermine Colorado’s public schools and potentially divert money into private institutions that could discriminate against students based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status or heritage.” The measure is also opposed by Coloradans Against School Vouchers and the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Don’t be fooled. Send a message this November that public education is not for sale and we will not be deceived. Vote “no” on Proposition 119.

Carol Cure is a former public school teacher and retired lawyer who is concerned about funding for our public schools. She started the Durango Chapter of Moms Demand Action and is chairwoman of the Gun Safety committee of Indivisible Durango.