Many of those likely voters who said they would support increases in state spending on public schools kept their word at the polls last night — but not in Colorado, where teachers walked out last school year in protest over funding levels for education.
Even though many Colorado schools closed for two days in April while teachers rallied at the state capitol in Denver, those demonstrations weren't enough to convince voters to pass Initiative 73 — Great Schools, Thriving Communities — which would have generated $1.6 billion for a Quality Public Education Fund.
The funds would have gone toward teacher salary increases and funding for preschoolers, gifted and talented students, and English learners. The measure would have amended the state constitution by creating a tax bracket in which rates would increase by a minimum of .37% for households earning at least $150,000 per year and range up to a 3.62% increase for those making over $500,000. A 1.37% corporate tax rate increase was also part of the measure.
Tonight voters rejected #Amendment73. Despite this, we will forge ahead & hold our elected officials accountable. We will fight every day. Our students deserve better. https://t.co/SPmmwGFs6G #RedForEd #InVESTinEdCO #SchoolFunding #edcolo #copolitics pic.twitter.com/vhILrYbdJW— Colorado EA (@ColoradoEA) November 7, 2018
Maryland locks up casino revenues for education
In Maryland, voters overwhelmingly approved Question 1, a constitutional amendment that would direct casino revenue into a supplemental education fund, beginning with $125 million in fiscal year 2020 and gradually increasing to over $500 million by 2023. The funds would be used for a variety of purposes, including early-childhood education, career and technical education, programs that allow high school students to earn college credit, professional learning for teachers, and school renovation and construction. Supporters of the measure say the “lockbox” amendment is needed because casino revenue hasn’t been spent on education the way it was intended.
In Georgia, voters approved Amendment 5, which allows local school districts that serve a majority of students within a county to call for a sales tax referendum.
In Hawaii, however, voters were not able to decide on a measure, sponsored by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, that would have allowed lawmakers to place a surcharge on residential investment properties, using the revenue for public schools. The state supreme court last month invalidated the measure, agreeing with counties that filed a lawsuit arguing that the wording of the title, “Relating to public education and investment property,” was misleading.
School bond issues approved in three states
Three states asked voters to approve bond issues to finance K-12 facility and infrastructure projects, ranging from water systems to school security. In New Jersey, voters approved Public Question 1, which was placed on the ballot by the state legislature. The measure authorizes $500 million in general obligation bonds for grants directed toward vocational schools, college career and technical education, school water infrastructure and school security.
In New Mexico, voters approved Bond Question C, which issues up to $6.137 million in general obligation bonds for school buses, equipped with air-conditioning. Voters also approved Bond Question D — up to $136 million in bonds for repair, renovation and new construction projects mostly for higher education facilities, but also including those at tribal schools and special schools, such as the New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe.
School buildings in Rhode Island will also see facility improvements now that voters have agreed that the state should borrow $250 million to build new schools and make extensive repairs and upgrades at others. Last year, the state’s School Building Authority issued a report saying that “high-priority construction and repairs,” in excess of $600 million, is needed across the state just to “keep students and teachers warm, safe and dry in their classrooms,” according to a Rhode Island Department of Education press release. Rhode Island also said that the statewide cost to bring all school buildings into "ideal condition" is about $2.2 billion.
Missouri voters faced three different ballot questions related to legalizing medical marijuana use. One of them — Proposition C — would have allocated a portion of a 2% excise tax to an Early Child Development, Education and Care Fund, an existing funding stream for programs related to school readiness. Voters, however, chose Amendment 2, which taxes sales at 4% and directs the revenue to services for military veterans.
Other wins for education
In Oklahoma, where teachers were on strike for nine days during the last school year, voters narrowly defeated State Question 801, which would have amended the state constitution so that school boards would be able to use property tax revenue for teachers’ salaries, textbooks or other classroom costs. Under current law, those funds are restricted for capital projects. Many district leaders opposed the measure because they said it would not have created any new funding for schools, only redirected what they already have for maintenance and other facility costs.
Arizona voters lost the chance to vote on the Invest in Ed ballot measure in August when the Arizona Supreme Court pulled the initiative from the ballot, saying that it was vaguely written and neglected to specify that the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation would be ceased. A yes vote would have nearly doubled the state income tax rate on individuals earning more than $250,000 and $500,000 for couples.
Voters did, however, reject a statewide expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which would have made all 1.1 million of the state's students eligible for the voucher-like program over a four-year period.
#Prop305 is defeated! Thank you Arizona for protecting public education & demanding tax dollar accountability. This is a victory for ALL Arizona children, families & communities. #NoProp305 #ProtectPublicEd #ProtectOurTaxDollars #ThankYou pic.twitter.com/SF80Lk6iCy— SOSArizona (@arizona_sos) November 7, 2018