Marijuana tax hike proposed to launch after-school learning programs: November ballot item

Prop 119 suggests raising the tax from 15% to 20%
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:24 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A 5% tax hike on recreational marijuana is proposed to fund new public school learning programs, and Colorado voters will decide whether or not that will happen on November 2nd.

The ballot item is Proposition 119. If passed, recreational marijuana tax would go from 15% to to 20%, incrementally increasing between 2022 and 2024. Tax dollars generated would go toward a new initiative to benefit public school students called LEAP, standing for “Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress.”

LEAP’s website says it would make after school learning opportunities more accessible, with low income students having priority access. Examples are tutoring, language education, arts enrichment, special needs programs, and more. Such programs are often offered by community partners like the YMCA and similar organizations.

LEAP advocates say low income students have significantly less access to such opportunities when compared to their more wealthy peers -- and that LEAP would help those students “close the gap” in education, which widened during the pandemic.

The state’s largest teachers union, the Colorado Education Association, initially was in favor of Proposition 119, but it withdrew support in early September.

“There wasn’t enough information to go for a strong support or enough information to oppose,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert. “Certainly we can see a need for our students to have opportunities to have ways to expand their learning beyond the traditional school day, but there were also some unanswered questions about how implementation will work.”

Baca-Oehlert added, “Putting something like this on the ballot highlights just how underfunded our school systems are -- that our school systems now cannot provide these kinds of opportunities for students because they simply do not have the funding to do so.”

The group Taxpayers for Public Education opposes the measure. Their website states Proposition 119 “offers no accountability, transparency, or local control " and “would cut millions of dollars from public education that support classroom supplies, educational programming, and teacher salaries, to pay for privatized education services -- including religious based institutions.” KKTV reached out to this group, but had not yet heard back when this article was written.

Colorado already puts more than 11% of retail marijuana tax dollars directly toward public schools. That’s based on a current law, which states 12.59% of 90% of retail marijuana tax goes to directly to schools. It appears funds brought in if Prop 119 is passed would be separate.

If you would like to register to vote on Nov. 2, click here.

KKTV reached out to groups on both sides of this proposition. We will update this story if new information comes in.

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