Colorado Democrats continue to show their true colors. They voted to create a fund to accept donations for after-school math and science tutoring programs but shot down an attempt to give even a token amount of state funds as seed money. Senator Mike Kopp (R-Littleton) proposed contributing $250,000 from the State Education Fund for the program, which has a proven track record of success:
â€œThis amendment would augment strength within the program by moving money to fund the proposal,â€ said Kopp when proposing his amendment.
â€œI think $250,000 is a reasonable amount to help these kids achieve their goals. (The program) has a 100-percent graduation rate, and some of these kids are doing types of mathemathics I haven’t even heard of before.”
The vote in the Senate against the amendment was 18-16. To his credit, freshman Senator Chris Romer from Denver jumped the party ship and showed himself to be one of the few commonsense Democrats in the State Capitol.
During the previous fiscal year, the State Education Fund (SEF) took in $361 million and spent $336 million on K-12 education. Revenues and expenditures are forecast to continue rising for the foreseeable future. The SEF accounts for a small fraction of total state dollars spent on public schools. And Democrats couldn’t find a quarter million to scrape together for a program with a proven track record?
Okay, I tried to feign surprise, but it didn’t work too well. We know that the Democrats are too beholden to the established union and bureaucratic interests in the public education system. How could Ken Gordon or Sue Windels explain to CEA lobbyists that a sum less than .01 percent of the state’s annual contribution to public schools could be spared to help improve high schoolers’ understanding of math and science?
Or maybe giving a tiny shred of public money to this program would be a tacit acknowledgment that the education system spends its plethora of funds in a less than efficient manner?
Or maybe they really are having a hard time finding savings in the budget? I’ve got an idea that would more than cover the miniscule amount proposed in Kopp’s amendment. At least $750,000 a year funds teachers union officers to take leave from the classroom to perform union business (Large PDF). In 2003, Democrats (and sadly, a few Republicans) worked to kill a proposal that would have outlawed taxpayer subsidies of union release time. So on second thought, maybe fiscal frugality really wasn’t the Democrats’ motive here.
Nor was it the motive when Sue Windels and the Democrats in the Senate Education Committee shot down a proposal to provide school districts incentives to reward their best teachers with pay increases. Uncomfortable with the idea of giving better teachers more money, CEA testified against Senator Nancy Spence’s SB 141. Never mind that Governor Ritter himself has touted performance pay in his “Colorado Promise.”
While it may appear to the uninitiated that Democrats at the State Capitol from time to time have found the religion of fiscal conservatism, be not deceived. It’s simply a matter of badly misplaced priorities. When the interests of students and families clash with the interests of unions and bureaucrats, most Democrats ditch the people for the interest groups.
So $250,000 by itself isn’t a big deal, but it does tell us a lot. And little by little, the independent voters of Colorado may find themselves experiencing serious doses of buyer’s remorse.