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Denver voters separated by distance, Amendment 66

Voters in opposite corners of Denver aren’t just separated by distance, but also in their support of a proposed tax increase on today’s ballot.

Residents of southwest Denver, who spoke to EdNews after dropping off their ballot at Harvey Park Recreation Center, generally opposed Amendment 66, while their northeastern neighbors at the Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center rallied behind the nearly billion dollar tax increase.

If approved, Amendment 66 would change the state’s flat income tax rate and finance a law that was passed by Colorado’s legislature earlier this year and that restructures current funding and would provide full day kindergarten for all students among other changes.

Supporters of the amendment and changes to the education system hailed the combination as a game-changer and believe Colorado would further its stance in education reform if they were enacted. Opponents argue the tax increase is unnecessary and would be harmful to small businesses.

Al Turner, a resident of Bear Valley, agrees with the latter.

“There’s so much mismanagement of the money in government,” he said. “The government hasn’t done enough creative spending.”

Terry Roberts echoed Tuner’s sentiment.

“I don’t feel like we need to be taxed anymore,” he said. “There are ways to fund education without increasing taxes.”

While Turner and Roberts were quick to dismiss the latest attempt to fund and reform Colorado’s education system, for Donnie Hooter, the decision to oppose the amendment was complex and took hours of research and re-reading his voter guide several times.

“Education needs to be reformed, but I’m not sure this is the best way,” he said. “I’m afraid the government will get more money. This reminds me a lot of the bank bailouts.”

There was at least one supporter of Amendment 66 at Harvey Park Tuesday morning: Kirsten Kittrell.

“Education is so important,” she said. “And so much money has taken from the schools. We need to be planning for our future. We need to get our act together.”

About 15 miles northeast, Tanya Russell was one of the many voters who agree with Kittrell.

“I don’t know the exact numbers, but Colorado does a horrible job funding education,” she said after voting and a workout at the rec center. “I don’t mind paying more in taxes if it’s going to educate my kids.”

The promise of early childhood education was enough to swing Princess Mac.

“My children are in kindergarten,” she said. “I know the importance of a full day in kindergarten.”

For Anne Koshio, who has worked in public education, it was the comprehensive restructuring of school funding, putting an emphasis on low income schools, that made her vote yes.

“I firmly believe in distributing money to neighborhood schools who don’t have as high of property values,” she said. “Colorado is one of the worst states in funding education. Really, I’d vote for anything to give schools more money.”

The same can’t be said for Harry Jackson.

“I’m retired. I got taxed to death when I was working,” he said. “And I’m still paying,”

There is one thing voters in both neighborhoods agree on: they don’t know much about the candidates vying for one of four seats on the city’s school board.

In some instances, like Jackson, voters simply left the decision up to their gut.

Turner, in southwest Denver, said a lack of information prompted him to vote for Rosemary Rodriguez and Barbara O’Brien.

“I didn’t know much about their opponents,” he said. “I don’t expect school board candidates to campaign like governors, but I’d like to hear more about them.”

Few voters spoke with passion while discussing their choice of school board candidates.

Joe Meredith, of Park Hill, said, he didn’t like incumbent Landri Taylor’s stance on charter schools, so he voted for Roger Kilgore.

“I felt like a vote for Taylor was a vote against failing schools,” he said.

But for 95-year-old Charles Burrell, Taylor is just the man to find better teachers for DPS.

“I like his honesty and straight-forwardness,” he said.

Speaking of honesty, some voters couldn’t even remember the name of the candidate they checked on their ballot. One northeast Denver voter, discussing his rationale, confused the gender his preferred opponent’s challenger.

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