(The Center Square) - A measure that proposed increasing Colorado public education funding by $980 million won't appear on the November ballot after supporters failed to submit signatures by the state's deadline Monday.
Initiative 63 would have allocated one-third of 1 percent of income tax revenue "to be used for attracting, retaining, and compensating teachers and student support professionals." The funding would not have been subject to the cap under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Tracie Rainey of the CO School Finance Project said backers of the measure are "heartbroken" and cited polling that showed support for the funding increase.
"We have learned the hard way that the enormous cost of gathering 125,000 valid signatures puts the ballot out of the reach of ordinary citizens - even with an extraordinarily popular measure with broad grassroots support like Initiative 63," Rainey said in a statement Monday. "Unfortunately for all Coloradans and especially for our public school students and teachers, deep pockets appear to be a prerequisite for ballot access."
One survey by Magellan Strategies found that 51 percent of Coloradans supported Initiative 63. That support increased to 64 percent when the firm included voters who "lean toward voting yes."
Magellan Strategies CEO David Flaherty said in a statement that it's "unfortunate" that the initiative couldn't collect enough signatures because voters would have likely passed it in November.
"After 15 years of measuring voter opinion for failed statewide ballot measures, we have learned what voters will or will not approve," he said. "Sadly, and tragically, Initiative 63 was the education funding ballot measure that would have achieved voter approval."
Two additional polls suggested that Colorado voters were ready to approve the initiative, Flaherty noted.
"To summarize, three unrelated surveys, with three large sample sizes, conducted by three respected polling firms indicate an excellent probability that voters would have approved Initiative 63," Flaherty said. "As a voter opinion research professional, I know you can't get the stars to align any better than that."
Governor Jared Polis signed a bill in May 2021 to ensure that Colorado's school districts do not receive reduced public financing because of the pandemic.
According to a statewide learning assessment, Colorado students saw a "significant decrease in [educational] achievement" during the pandemic because of remote learning.