This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
To head off a deepening crisis and address longstanding problems in school funding, Colorado lawmakers are trying to find a way to reset school district property taxes around the state.
This year’s Public School Finance Act, which passed out of the state House and Senate on largely party line votes, includes a complex change that would challenge tax and revenue rules that have governed Colorado for nearly three decades.
“There is a fundamental structural issue that has to get fixed,” said Speaker of the House K.C. Becker, a Boulder Democrat and sponsor of the school finance act. “We’re getting closer and closer to that point where the entire school funding system is completely collapsing.”
The change wouldn’t cause taxes to go up right away nor would it bring in any immediate new revenue. But it would create a mechanism for the legislature to raise taxes in the future without asking for voter approval and put more of the cost of K-12 education on school districts and their taxpayers.
Republicans objected to the provision — state Sen. Paul Lundeen, a Monument Republican, called it a “Trojan horse” — as a violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a Colorado constitutional amendment that requires a vote of the people to raise taxes.
“Many of your constituents will perceive this as an effective tax increase without the protective measures put in place by TABOR to have a vote on them,” said state Rep. Colin Larson, a Littleton Republican. “This is an end run around TABOR protections. This is not a solution I support.”