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Whispers and murmurs from the campaign trail

Will Amendment 66 get “flooded out?” That was a question posed to Sen. Mike Johnston Wednesday during a panel discussion at the University of Colorado Denver.

The question implied that the recent devastating floods in northern Colorado may distract potential voters from the election, or heighten voter nervousness about the amendment’s $950 million income tax increase.

“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” responded the Denver Democrat, the most tireless supporter of Amendment 66 and the author of the school funding reform law that would be triggered if the amendment passes. But, thinking on his feet, Johnston argued that the amendment actually would make state funding more flexible. “For me that increases the urgency to pass it,” he said.

The discussion, which also included Gail Klapper of Colorado Forum and Jeffco school board member Laura Boggs, had a distinctly wonkish tone and delved deeply into the background of the amendment and Johnston’s Senate Bill 13-213.

Johnston also was asked about a poll released this week by Coloradans for Real Education Reform, the main opposition group. The survey was not sanguine about the amendment’s chances.

Johnston, as always, accentuated the positive, saying “We have seen multiple poll data that shows this is every close but has the capacity to pass.” (The opposition poll prompted a somewhat skeptical story by FOX31 political report Eli Stokols, which in turn sparked some Twitter back and forth between some journalists and conservative bloggers.)

A fresh endorsement, and lots of Tweets

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver formally endorsed A66 at a Wednesday news conference headlined by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. (See news release.) You can watch video of that event here. Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign committee supporting Amendment 66, stepped up its Twitter campaign, posting numerous Tweets to videos of teachers and others endorsing the amendment.

Point counter point

Colorado Commits also issued a “setting the record straight” news release in response to a critical guest column in The Denver Post. (That column contained a glaring error somehow missed by Post editors, saying Amendment 66 was put on the ballot by the legislature. In fact it made the ballot by citizen petition.)

Pundits speculate

A delay in the timetable for a possible teachers union lawsuit against part of Senate Bill 10-191, the educator evaluation law, also prompted some media and Twitter chatter this week, with one conservative commentator speculating that the lawsuit filing deadline was extended to avoid bad publicity before the election. The delay originally was reported by EdNews.

To endorse or not endorse

There’s lots of conversation around the state about school boards’ skittishness to take a stand pro or con on Amendment 66. Several people have told EdNews that boards are reluctant to take a stand for fear of antagonizing one side or another in communities that are divided about the idea of tax increases.

A poll of superintendents by the Colorado Rural Caucus found that some 75 percent of small-district boards are staying away from taking a stand on the amendment.

The Boulder Valley school board this week voted to endorse the Amendment – but on a narrow 4-3 vote. Boulder would only gain modestly under SB 13-213/A66, seeing a 7.1 percent per-pupil funding increase as opposed to the 11.6 percent jump statewide. The no votes in Boulder also may reflect the views of some who feel the current Amendment 23 school funding formula is a better deal for schools than A66. Prominent Boulder lawyer Kathy Gebhardt, the lead lawyer in the unsuccessful Lobato v. State school funding lawsuit, is a leading A66 skeptic.

What campaign?

Lots of people are wondering where the A66 campaign is. “I’m somewhat surprised that we’re now four weeks or so away from ballots being delivered … and there’s this great degree of ignorance about the issue,” one well-connected superintendent commented to EdNews this week.

The Colorado Independent website referenced speculation among political insiders that amendment supporters are saving a big blast of spending and advertising for the end. (The clock is ticking, however. Mail ballots got out starting Oct. 15.)

Studies and more studies

Finally, three progressive groups, the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, and the Colorado Fiscal Institute, weighed in with another study supporting Amendment 66. They argue that “Increasing the Income Tax won’t harm Colorado’s economy.” (Last week the groups released another study on the economic impact of improved K-12 education.)

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