Taxpayers Draw the Line in Colorado

For years we’ve been preaching the same fundamental message – public schools have more of a spending problem than a revenue problem.

And the spending problem is largely caused by skyrocketing labor costs and stubborn unions that refuse to make any concessions during hard times.

The union’s answer, of course, is to raise taxes to provide more revenue for public schools. As long as struggling taxpayers cough up more money, teachers won’t have to give up their perks, and everything will be back to normal, right?

Not according to the voters of Colorado, who had the good sense to soundly reject a ballot proposal Tuesday that would have increased income and sales taxes to help fund public schools. The proposal died an ugly death, with 64 percent of voters saying no.

The main supporters of the measure were the usual suspects: School boards, the Colorado Education Association, and one very wealthy state senator, Rollie Heath, who can afford higher taxes.

“It’s clear the people of this state aren’t ready right now to tax themselves to solve this problem,” Heath told the Denver Post. “But I hope the people of this state will come together and say ‘We need to make some changes. We need to find a way to finance our education in a different way.’ ”

How about starting with a very frank discussion of labor costs, and how they dominate about 75 percent of a typical public school budget?

The citizens of Colorado may be asking, through their ballots, whether schools can really afford automatic raises for all teachers every year, free or low-cost health insurance for employees, free or low-cost pensions for employees, reimbursement for unused sick days, and a bunch of other perks that cost schools millions.

When private companies hit hard times, they necessarily tighten their payrolls. Schools could do the same thing if the unions would get out of the way.

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