COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – One of the questions in front of Colorado voters this November will ask to raise taxes on retail marijuana to fund and create a new state agency to provide tutoring and enrichment programs in Colorado.
Proponents of Proposition 119 point to the $2.2 Billion in sales that the state’s marijuana businesses brought in in 2020.
“Pot shops were open, and schools were closed.” said Tyler Sandberg, vice president of Ready Colorado, in support of the proposition, “Schools being closed harmed low income kids more than anybody.”
If Proposition 119 were to pass, a state agency, separate from the Colorado Department of Education and the State’s Board of Education, would be created to approve programs to receive the money generated.
It would allow parents who qualify to chose the programs their children, and “it will be one of the first programs that will empower parents to say where is my student’s biggest gap in learning,” Sandberg said. “[It will be] An innovative [way] to help the most disadvantages students in our state recover from COVID learning loss but also close one of the largest achievement gaps in America: The gap between low income communities of color and wealthy, affluent white communities.”
The 5 percent tax increase, bringing total state taxes to 20 percent by 2024, would generate an estimated $137 million over three years, including $87.1 million in 2022-23.
Though opponents are concerned that not all of the program will be paid for by the increase, with the ballot language calling for “reallocating a portion of the public lands income”–a funding source dedicated for public school funding.
“It diverts millions of dollars per year from our public school funding.” said Judy Solano, a former state law maker and retired teacher of nearly three decades who is part of the campaign against the proposition.
The Blue Book estimates $21 million will be diverted from the fund in 2021-22 and $22 million in 2022-23.
The state agency is also concerning to Selano, given its purview outside of the state’s Department of Education or Board of Education with members appointed by the Governor, instead of elected, like the Board.
“Why would you have a huge new bureaucracy twice the budget of the Colorado Department of Education for one issue in public education and that’s learning loss,” Solano said.
Solano says the state is due to receive $510 million for learning loss from federal pandemic relief to go to learning loss programs and that money will be administered by local districts.