In order to meet the requirements of the mandates of the Education Clause of the Colorado Constitution, education reform legislation, and the Colorado Consolidated State Plan, Colorado schools would need an infusion of funding far beyond that required by Amendment 23 to the state constitution. Amendment 23 was not designed to fund schools “adequately.” Rather, it was designed to reverse cuts imposed over a decade because of Colorado’s constitutional budget constraints.
Article IX, section 17 of the Colorado Constitution, “Amendment 23,” was adopted by initiative on November 7, 2000. Amendment 23 includes three principal provisions:
(a) A mandatory, minimum level of annual increases to public school funding. During state fiscal years 2001-02 through 2010-11, statewide base per pupil funding under the Public School Finance Act (PSFA) and state funding for categorical programs are required to “grow annually at least by the rate of inflation plus an additional one percentage point;” and after 2010-11, by a rate at least equal to the rate of inflation.
(b) The creation and funding of a state education fund to support the mandated increases and to address compelling educational needs, specifically: “for accountable education reform, for accountable programs to meet state academic standards, for class size reduction, for expanding technology education for improving student safety, for expanding the availability of preschool and kindergarten programs, for performance incentives for teachers, for accountability reporting, or for public school building capital construction.” Revenues collected from a tax of one-third of one percent of federal taxable income are to be deposited into the state education fund each year and applied to the stated purposes. These revenues are expressly exempted from the spending limitations of TABOR.
(c) The requirement to maintain minimum level of state public school funding effort. General fund appropriations for the PSFA must be increased by at least five percent annually for state fiscal years 2001-02 through 2010-11, except in any years when Colorado personal income increases by less than 4.5 percent between the two preceding calendar years. Maintenance of effort is not required for categorical programs or capital construction.
The purpose of Amendment 23 was to begin to reverse a trend of more than ten years of declining real funding of Colorado public education by gradually restoring education funding to the equivalent of 1988 levels, as adjusted for inflation, by 2010-11, and to prevent further erosion of education finance from the effects of TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment.
What’s Wrong with Amendment 23
Because the applicable inflation factor was only one-tenth of one percent (0.1%), in state fiscal year 2005-06, public school funding was increased by only 1.1 percent. This increase was based on the Amendment 23 formula and not on an analysis or even consideration of the actual cost of meeting the mandates of the Education Clause, education reform legislation, or the Consolidated State Plan. This nominal increase was substantially below the actual increase in fixed costs experienced by school districts and failed to provide sufficient additional funding to provide all Colorado students with the opportunity to obtain a constitutionally adequate, quality education.
Amendment 23 does not address, amend, supplant, or diminish the qualitative mandate of the Education Clause; nor does it define or limit the level or method of funding necessary to fulfill that mandate. The 1988 funding levels were not based upon a valid analysis of the actual costs of providing a constitutionally adequate, quality education; and there is no basis to conclude that merely restoring the 1988 funding level will provide funding sufficient to meet the mandates of the Education Clause, state education reform legislation, or the Consolidated State Plan. If the state were to adequately fund public education in accordance with the mandate of the Education Clause, Amendment 23 would be unnecessary.
Additional Resources on Amendment 23