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Colorado Canary in a Coalmine: Cuts to Budget = Growing Demand for Choice

June 17, 2020

The Colorado legislature just passed a budget for FY 21 that looks like a harbinger of what future state budgets will look like across the country… and what the future COULD hold if parents care only about their children. This Chalkbeat article by Erica Meltzer and Jason Gonzalez details the trade offs the Colorado legislators had to make in order to offset the $3.3 billion revenue shortfall… trade offs that resulted in “only” a billion dollar plus cut to schools, a cut that was deeper than the constitution allows but one that was completely unavoidable. This kind of cut sidelined many initiatives Colorado had launched only a year earlier, which is sad. But Luke Ragland of the conservative education advocacy group Ready Colorado believes the cuts could open the door for future legislation on choice:

….he predicted that a Republican education agenda focused on parent choice that didn’t make progress this year will become more urgent next year, as parents try to find a good education amid a checkerboard of in-person, online, and hybrid models.

I promise you right now that wealthy families will move to find the opportunities they need, whether that’s in person or a higher quality online experience,” he said. “Access for open enrollment becomes incredibly important because the stakes have been raised for families.”

This much is clear to me: if affluent parents do not support ALL schools by digging deeper in their pockets when cuts are necessary a vicious cycle will begin and public schools as we know them now will disappear. Unless voters believe that their taxes are raised to help needy neighbors the economic divide will worsen. The financial crisis created by the pandemic is creating an existential crisis not only for schools, but for democracy itself.

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