“Bright Colorado” will help education

MEEKER I A coalition committed to public education is making a statewide effort to get an initiative called “Bright Colorado” on this fall’s ballot. The measure is designed to prevent further cuts to primary, secondary and higher education. Although it will not solve the fundamental problem with Colorado’s tax structure and public education funding, it will “stop the bleeding” for preschool through 12th grade (P-12) and higher education.
The initiative was proposed by Colorado Senator Rollie Heath and restores certain tax rates to 1999 levels for five years. Corporate and personal income tax rates would go from 4.63 percent to 5 percent; and the state sales tax would return to 3 percent from its current 2.9 percent level. “Bright Colorado” would raise $532 million each year for education.
Without such a short term fix, P-12 will face a fourth year of deep cuts in 2012-2013. Realistic projections call for several additional years of reduced funding for the School Finance Act. The state legislature determines how much its budget will allocate to the School Finance Act each year. The School Finance Act, in turn, determines how much money, per student, each school district may receive from a combination of state equalization dollars and local property taxes.
Meeker is one of a few school districts in the state which gets all its revenue from local property taxes due to its high assessed property valuation. However, the School Finance Act dictates how many of these dollars the Meeker district can keep for its annual budget. The balance goes to the state of Colorado to be used as state equalization dollars for other districts. Colorado schools are funded this way to afford equal educational opportunities to all districts.
Currently, Colorado ranks 49th of 50 states in P-12 per pupil funding and could easily slip to 50th. No one wants to pay more taxes, but “Bright Colorado” is the only way to add needed dollars to the School Finance Act and higher education. Without it, educational programs will continue to suffer across the state. Our students only have one opportunity for an education and it is now. They deserve better than the School Finance Act will be able to provide.
Meeker and Rangely school districts have endured significant budget cuts along with every school district in the state.  The Meeker district will open school this coming year with fewer staff people than in the past. Class sizes will be larger, all district salaries have been frozen for the last two years and the general fund budget is very tight. If additional years of diminished funding are a reality, program and course offerings may be reduced.
To find out more about “Bright Colorado” log on to www.greateducation.org. Should you want to sign a petition to get this important measure on the ballot — or are willing to carry a petition yourself — please call Mary Strang at 878-5362 or (970) 270-4445. The deadline for submitting signed petitions is July 20, 2011.