Voters in Colorado will decide the fate of a ballot measure this fall that could result in more funding for extended learning time for kids, including a longer school day, after-school programs, and summer school.
Ads promoting Amendment 66, which would raise personal income taxes to provide an overall funding increase for public schools, started this week. If approved, about $100 million of the $950 million raised would go toward a grant program called the Innovation Fund.
Initiatives focused on extending student learning time will be given priority, according to a school finance measure that outlines how the money will be spent. The new law says that the majority of the money appropriated for the grant program must be awarded to fund expanded learning time initiatives, and priority must be given to applications from school that are struggling to meet state performance standards.
Damion LeeNatali, the political director for Colorado Commits to Kids, a group that has formed to support passage of the measure, said teachers, principals, and school districts would be able to apply. He said the Innovation Fund will allow the state to expand on several promising new programs being funded by the TIME Collaborative, which is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning. (The Ford Foundation also provides funding to Education Week for coverage of more and better learning time.)
“Even in the first few months of implementation, we were hearing anectodal stories about reduced truancy rates, increased attendance rates, and lower behavoral referall rates,” he said.
Though several stories indicate that there appears to be more broad-based support for the initiative than there was when a tax increase for education funding failed in 2011, there are still divides over whether it is a justifiable burden on taxpayers and concern, even among proponents, about how the money will be spent.
Because of the new law’s plans for “revenue equalization for high-needs districts based on their share of low-income and English-language learner students,” our State EdWatch blogger Andrew Ujifusa wrote about how this election could be an interesting test case for judging how receptive voters are to weighted funding. In fact, Ujifusa was just in Colorado to get an on-the-ground perspective on the debate over the Colorado ballot measure.
Though Colorado voters have rejected similar tax increases for education in the past, LeeNatali said the efforts at being more upfront about how the money will be spent seems to be playing well with the voters this time around.
“We have really focused on trying to lay out what the investments will be,” he said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.