Dems denounce effort to set classroom budget requirements
DENVER – Democrats on Thursday denounced a proposed ballot issue that would force school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operational budgets on classroom instruction, calling it an attempt to deceive voters into thinking it will improve education.The plan has been backed by prominent Republicans, who said the measure could provide 10,000 new teachers or computers for every school child in Colorado. On Thursday, GOP gubernatorial candidates Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez showed up as the last signatures were gathered, including one from Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.They hope to put the plan before voters in November.Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, said the initiative is an attempt by Republicans to pit school administrators who could lose their jobs against teachers who could get salary raises if the plan is approved.He said if it succeeds, it would divert more children to charter schools and provide support for school vouchers, two Republican goals in public education.He said it would also divert money from teacher training, administration, library services, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, food services and transportation.”The 65 percent proposal does not create any new money,” Merrifield said.Holtzman called the initiative “the Republican, market-oriented alternative to Amendment 23,” an initiative approved by voters that requires increased spending for public schools. Beauprez said the plan “makes perfect sense for the kids” and it would force school districts to focus on their primary objective, educating children.The initiative is part of a national effort to approve similar measures in all 50 states to put $14 billion into teaching without a tax increase. In Colorado, it could shift a total of $465 million a year.Louisiana, Kansas and Texas have already adopted the requirement.Backers had six months to collect 67,829 valid signatures. The deadline is Friday.Merrifield is offering a Democratic alternative (House Bill 1283) that would target administrative waste without hurting rural districts with big transportation expenses or urban schools that need guidance counselors to deal with social issues.
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