Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Two-Thirds of Colorado Voters Reject Tax Increase for Schools

Colorado voters by a margin of almost 2-to-1 defeated a citizen initiative to increase taxes for public education that would have raised $2.9 billion.

Proposition 103, the only statewide tax vote in the U.S. this election season, failed 64-36 percent with 84 percent of the projected vote counted, the Associated Press said today.

The rejection continued a nationwide trend against new taxes. In November 2010, Washington voters spurned an income tax on top earners and dropped levies on candy, bottled water and carbonated beverages. The last successful statewide voter initiative to increase taxes was in 2006 in South Dakota.

“One of the concerns with Prop 103 was that it was a grassroots movement, done on a low budget with not a lot of advertising,” said Mike Wetzel, a spokesman for the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union. The organization endorsed the measure. He spoke in an interview before the results of yesterday’s balloting were known.

Proposition 103 would have raised the personal and corporate income-tax rate to 5 percent from 4.63 percent and increased the sales and use levy to 3 percent from 2.9 percent. Both increases would have lasted five years, to finance public education.

The vote came the same day Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who didn’t take a position for or against the initiative, called for cuts to public schools and universities to help close a $500 million gap in the $20 billion fiscal 2013 state budget.

Student Spending

Colorado spent $1,781 less per public-school pupil than the national average of $10,499 in 2008-2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the latest available. Only 11 states spent less. Before 1982, Colorado’s spending was about equal to the national average, according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.

Supporters of the tax plan, endorsed by union leaders and the school boards in the state’s largest districts, raised $607,000 through Oct. 31, according to a campaign filing by Support Schools for a Bright Colorado on the secretary of state’s website.

Opponents including Too Taxing for Colorado and Save Colorado Jobs, a group headed by a former state Representative Victor Mitchell, a Republican, raised about $25,000, according to the most recent filings.

Republican Opposition

The National Federation of Independent Business and the Colorado Republican Business Coalition fought the increases, saying they would harm the state’s economy as it struggles with an 8.3 percent unemployment rate.

“I’m opposed to raising taxes on Colorado families and small businesses,” Frank McNulty, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from Highlands Ranch, said in an interview before the election. “Our efforts must be focused on job creation.”

Colorado was the only state with an initiative to raise income taxes in this month’s U.S. elections. A 1992 amendment to the state constitution bars the Legislature and local lawmakers from increasing levies without voter approval. Coloradans last year voted not to lower their income tax.

Statewide tax increases blessed by voters are not unheard of when the economy is struggling. In 2010, voters in Arizona and Oregon approved measures to increase taxes.

Standard & Poor’s said in a report Oct. 25 that it didn’t expect the passage of any state ballot initiative in this election cycle, including Proposition 103, to “have an immediate credit impact on any state ratings.”


Weighing the value of a law degree

by Hans Bader

Clifford Winston was right to question the legal requirement that lawyers graduate from law school before they can practice law. Many students learn little of value in law school. I learned more practical law in two months of studying for the bar exam after graduating from law school than I ever did in law school.

I learned about trendy ideological fads and feminist and Marxist legal theory while at Harvard Law School. But I did not learn many basic legal principles, such as in contract law and real estate law, until I took a commercial bar-exam preparation course after law school.

Getting rid of the requirement that students attend law school before taking the bar exam would save many students a fortune in student loan debt. It would also force law schools to improve their courses to attract students who now have no choice but to attend.


British shools acting as 'surrogate parents', says Ofsted chief

Schools are being forced to act as “surrogate families” because growing numbers of parents struggle to bring up their children properly, according to the new head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said teachers were being required to step in to give pupils an evening meal, offer pastoral support and show them right from wrong. Staff are forced to provide care “beyond the school day” amid concerns that many mothers and fathers lack basic parenting skills, he claimed.

The comments come after the Coalition unveiled plans to provide parenting classes for around 50,000 people next year as part of a national trial scheme.

Families in Middlesbrough, Derbyshire and Camden will be given classes in areas such as communication and listening skills, managing conflict, discipline and setting boundaries for their children.

Sir Michael, the principal of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London, who will take over as Ofsted chief inspector in January, insisted schools were increasingly “becoming surrogate parents” to compensate for poor parenting skills.

In an interview with The Evening Standard, he said: "Often children come from homes that are dysfunctional, where parents may love their children but not be able to support them for a variety of reasons, where there are problems with gang culture. "Schools - and my school is one of them in Hackney - take on a parenting role. We become surrogate parents for a lot of our children, and that means working with them beyond the school day well into the evening. "Giving them an evening meal, mentoring, supporting them in a way that a family would do. Doing what is absolutely necessary to ensure they have a secure and safe life."

Sir Michael said pupils who could not read were given tutoring from 7.30am until they catch up. "Parents should be [reading with children] but often they don't. It's up to the school to promote literacy,” he said.

The comments were made ahead of Sir Michael’s “pre-appointment” hearing before the Commons education select committee on Tuesday.

Under Parliamentary rules, the cross-party committee can quiz senior ministerial appointments and recommend overturning the decision in extreme cases.


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