Who Is In Charge

Ballot measure campaign finally launches

Advocates of a $950 million education tax increase Tuesday kicked off their campaign with a low-key news release.

Stacks of cashThe campaign now has a name – Colorado Commits to Kids.

“It’s no secret that we need to invest more in education in Colorado if we want our students and state to have a bright economic future,” said Barbara Baumann, president of Cross Creek Energy Corp. and identified in the release as “supporter” of the effort.

The release was issued by OnSight Public Affairs, a Denver political consulting firm that has been advising backers of the effort.

As expected, supporters are moving ahead with what’s currently called Initiative 22. That measure would raise state individual income tax rates to generate an additional $950.1 million a year to pay for Senate Bill 13-213, the proposed overhaul of the state’s school funding system. The initiative proposes a two-step increase in rates.

The business-oriented civic group Colorado Forum filed 16 versions of a proposed ballot measure by a state-required deadline last March. Since then there have been prolonged behind-the-scenes debates, primarily within the business community, over which version to propose to voters. There was persistent disagreement over whether to push a flat tax increase or a graduated proposal.

The campaign has until Aug. 5 to gain the 86,105 signatures needed. Political veterans generally feel at least 100,000 signatures should be gathered to provide a cushion for invalid signatures. The petition campaign will use a combination of paid and volunteer circulators, said Curtis Hubbard of OnSight. Paid petition circulation will be handled by FieldWorks, a Washington-based firm.

Some backers of the tax increase, particularly in the education community, had become increasingly nervous as the petition deadline approached without any formal campaign launch. Backers did receive state approval for the format of petitions a couple of weeks ago, petitions were printed and some petitions already have been circulated by members of the Colorado Education Association.

Hubbard said the campaign was launched now, about 40 days before petitions must be turned in, because “We were trying to build a coalition and get feedback … trying to make sure that process was as inclusive as possible. It takes time; now we’re ready to move forward.”

Members of the advocacy group Great Education Colorado also are expected to circulate petitions. “There are more volunteer groups that are coming on board all the time,” Hubbard said.

“We fully expect to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. How hard that will be remains to be seen,” said Hubbard, who recently joined OnSight after resigning as editorial page editor of The Denver Post. He said there isn’t a specific target for an “overage” of signatures.

“We’re focused almost exclusively on qualifying for the ballot,” Hubbard stressed. He said that gathering a formal list of supporting organizations, creating a full-blown campaign organization, fundraising and other tasks will come later.

“The campaign structure is something that’s going to be designed as we go along,” Hubbard said. He did note that Mike Melanson and Ben Davis, founding partners of OnSight, “will be involved in campaign strategy on a day-to-day basis.” In recent years those two have been heavily involved in campaigns for Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, both Democrats.

The initiative would repeal the annual K-12 increase formula contained in Amendment 23, passed by voters in 2000. Instead, a minimum of 43 percent of current tax collections would be devoted to K-12 support. The revenue raised by the new rates, called the “income tax increment,” would go into a special account to be used for “educational reforms and programmatic enhancements” above current levels of school funding.

Colorado’s current income tax rate is 4.63 percent of federal taxable income for all individual taxpayers. Initiative 22 would impose an additional .37 percent on all income up to $75,000 a year. Taxpayers who earn more than that would pay the additional .37 percent on the first $75,000 of income and an increase of 1.27 percent on the amount above $75,000.

Colorado Commits has registered as a campaign committee with the Colorado Department of State. The registered agent is listed as Tracie Moore, an employee of the campaign consulting firm Tightline Strategies, which has office in Washington, D.C., California and Missouri. The campaign also has a bare-bones website here.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.