Support for education funding increase divided

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Opponents and proponents of Amendment 23 sorted through the issues Wednesday in a conference call discussion about the educational funding proposal.

The Moffat County Board of Education recently passed a resolution in support of the amendment.

School board member John Wellman said that he was in favor of 23.

"I think funding for education in the state is critical," Wellman said. "I think to be financially sound we need to pass it."

The amendment, which will be on the Nov. 7 state ballots, would increase public education spending by 1 percent in addition to the rate of inflation each year for the next 10 years.

"I totally support it, especially when you consider school funding isn't even increased to the inflation rate," said Duane Wrightson, Moffat County

Schools Superintendent. "I would say it's badly needed."

Opponents of the amendment argue that it would reduce the state's surplus and reduce the tax refund by $113 per state taxpayer or $226 for a married couple in the first year.

Gully Stanford of the State Board of Education responded to state Treasurer Mike Coffman's written opposition to Amendment 23 in the Rocky Mountain News by saying the measure would benefit the state by creating $339 million in additional education funds in its first year. Coffman, who did not participate in the conference call, had said he denounced the plan because the state would have to seek money to pay the schools even in years without surpluses. The bulk of the increased spending, Coffman said, will come from the general fund.

Proponents say the amendment would help Colorado's fading education funding system. Supporters also stress that in order for young students to succeed, the state should be willing to invest in them.

Colorado's education funding system dropped from eleventh to 32nd in the nation, according to Stanford.

"There is a funding crisis in our schools," he said. "This is unacceptable."

During the telephone conference, which comprised five distinguished officials from around the state, proponents maintained that the amendment was a conservative approach to the challenges that face Colorado schools.

Each of the individuals rejected the idea that passing the amendment would affect transportation projects and other state expenditures.

"This is an issue that the state is going to face whether or not Amendment 23 passes," said Cary Kennedy who is the author of the amendment. "I don't think it has to go specifically to delaying any particular projects. The state has a variety of options. When Amendment 23 passes, staff and legislators will put their heads together to make it over a one-year hurdle to make Amendment 23 work."

While Coffman refers to the measure as a "fiscal train wreck," local school board members are sticking to their guns and supporting the amendment.

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