Colorado Education Funding Vote Provides Possible Preview for South Dakota

Colorado citizens voted their pocketbooks on this one:

With 99 percent of the precincts counted early this morning, the Associated Press reported the split was 64 percent against the ballot measure, close to 612,000 votes, to 36 percent, about 350,000 votes, in favor.

Proposition 103 would have raised the state’s income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent, and the state’s sales and use tax rate from 2.9 percent to 3 percent, each for a period of five years, after which the tax hikes would expire.

It would have generated an estimated $3 billion during that period—all of which would have been directed to public schools, though the measure did not specify how the money would be allocated, from preschool through K-12 to college.

Billions for education were turned down by people who are not at all certain that the billions which the state school system currently spends is doing much good. 2 out of 3 votes were against the measure. The article goes on to note the variety of reasons the measure did not pass, but it would seem to come down to a very simple thing. People–even people in a purple state like Colorado are not particularly happy with the idea of giving the government even more of their money than they are currently.

South Dakota will not be voting on this in 2011, but we are slated to vote on a similar measure in 2012, as noted in this recent press release:

Secretary of State Jason M. Gant just announced that officials from the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) and the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations (SDAHO) appeared at his office today to turn in petitions for a measure to place a one percent sales tax increase on the ballot, with the purpose of the additional funds raised by the tax increase to go towards education and Medicaid. The measure is described in its title as “an initiated measure to increase state general sales and use taxes for additional K-12 public education and Medicaid funding.”

A few things are different between the states (the type of taxation, the fact that one measure also includes Medicare, etc) but the general idea is the same. Since the schools and teacher’s unions were unable to convince the respective state’s senators and representatives to pass the appropriate funding bills, these educators are going to take the matter straight to the people.

Unfortunately, things did not go so well in Colorado for the above-mentioned groups. Given the current state of education affairs in South Dakota and a growing body of evidence across the nation that teachers and other school employees are doing very well with regard to compensation when compared with their private sector peers, I think it improbable that South Dakotans will be amenable to an increase in taxation.

I will grant that coupling the Medicare funding with the school funding sweetens the pot a bit (seeing that such a move increases the number of people who will vote for the measure in support of their own self interest), but I do not know that even that will be enough.

Times are hard. They are going to get harder. Our public schools would do well to figure out how they can work more efficiently with what they have rather than asking, nay, demanding more from the already strapped taxpayers.