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Thursday Churn: Great Ed signs on

What’s churning:

Great Education Colorado, a group that’s long advocated for increased education spending, has emailed members and supporters challenging them to help gather 15,000 petition signatures for the education-funding ballot measure being proposed by Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.

Getting a measure on the ballot probably will require some 100,000 signatures.

“Because of Colorado’s constitutional constraints, there’s only one way to prevent a fourth year of devastating cuts, and that’s by putting Senator Heath’s proposal on the November 2011 ballot and giving the voters the chance to decide,” the group’s email said.

Heath’s proposal would raise state income tax rates from 4.63 to 5 percent and the state sales tax from 2.9 to 3 percent. The higher rates are where taxes were set before the legislature reduced them more than a decade ago. The difference, about $532 million a year, would go to K-12 and higher education.

Heath has filed various versions of the idea, some temporary and some permanent. The proposal doesn’t necessarily have wide backing among education groups; many people feel this isn’t a good year to ask voters for a tax increase and that the fiscal conflicts in the state constitution need a more comprehensive fix. The Regional Transportation District board, for instance, has decided not to ask metro-area voters for a FasTracks sales-tax increase this fall.

Asked several weeks ago about his views on the Heath idea, Gov. John Hickenlooper repeated his oft-stated view that voters have “no appetite” this year for a tax increase to fund schools.

Great Education has a different take: “Unless we do something at the ballot this November, there will be even bigger classes, less music and art, higher fees and tuition, and less individual attention in the 2012-13 school year.”

State support for K-12 education is being cut about $228 million for next year, while higher ed is losing about $125 million in state support.

What’s on tap:

Douglas County students interested in applying for vouchers for the district’s pilot program this fall must do so by 5 p.m. today. That’s also the revised deadline for private schools interested in accepting vouchers to work out their contracts with the district.

If more than 500 eligible students submit applications, a lottery drawing is scheduled for Monday. Families are due to be notified whether they received vouchers, and where, Tuesday through Friday. See the list of potential private school partners.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Exit strategy: School board members in the Adams 14 Commerce City school district have asked the district’s attorney to begin negotiations for a separation agreement with Superintendent Susan Chandler. 9News and district statement.

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