Voters Face Education Ballot Measures November 2

Voters in at least nine states will have the opportunity when they go to the polls November 2 to decide the outcome of education-related referenda - most of which would either increase or reduce public school funding. The ballot measures will provide an interesting display of voter priorities – the desire by some for tax relief versus a call by others for more funding for education.

In Arizona, Proposition 302 would transfer funds from the First Things First childhood development program into the general fund to help balance the budget. TheFirst Things First initiative uses tobacco tax money to pay for programs that help kids from birth to age 5, and is not controlled by the state legislature. Arizona voters also will cast ballots on Proposition 107, also known as the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, which would amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action in public employment, including public schools.

Voters in Colorado will decide the fate of three ballot measures on Election Day. One, Amendment 60, would slash property taxes paid that help fund school districts. Opponents claim that as many as 8,000 teachers could get pink slips if the measure passes.  Colorado voters also will decide whether to restrict government borrowing (Amendment 61) and whether to reduce or eliminate taxes on income, vehicles or telecommunications (Proposition 101). Opponents argue adoption of the latter resolution would result in less revenue for schools. Supporters claim a need for tax relief and say the impact on Colorado schools would be minimal.

Oklahoma voters will face two competing ballot initiatives. Question 744 (also called the Helping Oklahoma Public Education initiative) would require the state to increase per-pupil spending, which currently ranks near the bottom nationally, to the average of surrounding states. Critics charge its passage would force the state to cut spending in other areas of government. However, even if adopted by voters, Question 744 could be negated by Question 754. It would amend the state’s constitution, adding language that the legislature is not required to spend a certain amount of money using a predetermined formula on any service or program, including education.

While several of these measures would reduce education spending, ballot initiatives in Maine and Oregon would authorize casinos, with a minimum level of the revenues benefitting education in those states.

Washington voters will also be asked whether to impose an excise tax on persons with incomes above $200,000 or $400,000 for joint-filers to help reduce other state taxes. Referendum 52 would direct any increase in revenues to education and health and would authorize more than $500 million in bonds to finance construction and repair public schools and higher education buildings.

New Mexico Bond Question B asks voters whether the state can issue $7.1 million in bonds to finance schools and libraries.

California’s Proposition 24 would close several recently enacted tax breaks for corporations. Proposition 24 is supported by teachers’ unions, which hope it will result in additional funding for education. The California Teachers’ Association claims a ‘yes’ vote would prevent $1.3 billion in education cuts in California.

Finally, Florida voters will consider whether to pass an initiative that would loosen a 2002 constitutional amendment dealing with class size reduction. If passed by voters, Amendment 8 would raise current class-size caps. Opponents include the state’s teacher union. It is backed by the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of School Administrators, who claim the measure would give schools more flexibility.