(The Center Square) – Colorado’s public schools could receive billions in funding if voters pass Proposition HH in November, but those funds would lack guardrails, according to an analysis by a Colorado-based think tank.
If passed by a simple majority, Prop HH would lower property taxes in the state and replace lost tax revenue with Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds. A report by the Common Sense Institute found 95% of funds retained under Prop HH, or up to $9.6 billion, could be directed to elementary and secondary education in future years when the state won’t need to backfill lost tax revenue to local political subdivisions.
“Proposition HH provides billions of dollars to education yet is not accompanied by guidelines, guardrails or metrics related to student performance,” the report said.
Colorado’s state budget for preschool and K-12 education for the 2023-24 budget year will be approximately $9.1 billion. The budget increased the amount per student by $598.25 and the report estimated spending at $10,614 per student, a 4% increase over last year.
“By 2027, state tax revenue generated by Proposition HH, through the retention of future TABOR refunds, will likely grow to be larger than the annual increase in the state’s share of required education funding,” the report said.
The analysis projects education would receive an additional $2.4 billion by 2032 and $14.7 billion by 2040. CSI said Colorado school spending increased 47% from 2007 to 2021 while teacher pay increased 27%.
“Data similar to this provokes skepticism that the windfall of additional dollars for education projected to flow from Proposition HH will yield improved student outcomes unless the additional dollars are accompanied by guidelines, guardrails and metrics for performance or are allocated in fundamentally different ways than the current formula that could better prioritize student needs,” the report said.
The Colorado Fiscal Institute recently advocated for the passage of Prop. HH and highlighted the initiative will provide additional funding for schools.
“This will result in more than a billion dollars going to schools per year in the future,” according to a blog post from the Colorado Fiscal Institute.
The campaign backing Prop HH is challenging some assertions made in campaign ads against the initiative.
“The far right special interests behind the effort to oppose Prop. HH are trying to intentionally mislead voters with a new TV ad that spreads misinformation about the cost-saving measure,” according to a media release from the campaign, Yes on HH. “The dishonest ad opens with partisan quotes about HH from right wing politicians and goes into a string of fabricated lies meant to confuse voters.”
The document from Common Sense Institute is the latest in the think tank’s series analyzing Prop. HH.
“Proposition HH is one of the most complex and, quite frankly, confusing issues to ever appear on the Colorado ballot,” Kelly Caufield, CSI’s executive director, said in a statement. “Our goal is to deliver the facts and break down the issues for voters.”