Education on the Ballot in Mid-Term Elections

Connexeo - 08/22/2018

The battle for control of Congress garners the lion’s share of attention surrounding the Nov. 6 mid-term elections; but voters in several states will also cast ballots on initiatives concerning education funding and other school issues.

Almost all of the measures involve establishing or increasing taxes to broaden K-12 schools’ financial bases in a time when the property-tax system of funding has often fallen short.

Here is a look at some of the most prominent ballot initiatives:

Arizona’s Invest in Education Act would, if passed, provide an additional $600 million to schools each year by raising the state’s 4.54% income-tax rate to 8% for individuals earning more than $250,000 per year ($500,000 for families) and 9% or those earning more than $500,000 per year ($1 million for families). Some 60% of the additional revenue would be earmarked for teacher salaries and the other 40% for school operations. This measure remains on the ballot after a Maricopa County judge in mid-August rejected claims from business groups that the ballot language is misleading.

A similar measure will be on the Colorado ballot in November. Initiative 93 would raise income-tax rates through a graduated formula for households earning more than $150,000 per year. The proposed state constitutional amendment, initiated by citizens, would add $1.6 billion annually to school funding. The measure would need 55% approval to pass. The Colorado Legislative Council stated that the tax rate would increase by:

  • 37% for income between $150,000-$200,000
  • 37% for income between $200,000-$300,000
  • 37% for income between $300,000-$500,000
  • 62% for income of more than $500,000

Georgia voters, meanwhile, will decide whether to give that state’s school districts an entirely new taxing authority: the ability to impose sales taxes. This state constitutional amendment would allow districts that, combined, have a majority of students within a county to call a referendum to levy a 1% sales tax that would last five years. Revenue would be divided by the county’s school districts based on an inter-district agreement or by ratio of student enrollment.

A $1 billion loan to aid career, technical and vocational education, along with school security, is on the New Jersey ballot this November. The money would be earmarked for grants to county vocational school districts and county colleges to build and equip facilities that would increase capacity in career and technical education programs. It would also be used for grants for security projects at K-12 schools.

For decades, state lottery and gambling proponents have claimed that proceeds from the games would be used to fund education. For decades, those claims have proven to be, at least in part, false. The Maryland Gambling Revenue Dedicated to Education Lockbox Amendment would amend the state constitution to put the lottery’s money where its mouth is, at least in terms of casino gambling. If passed, the following amounts of casino revenue would be earmarked solely for education:

  • $125 million in fiscal 2020
  • $250 million in fiscal 2021
  • $375 million in fiscal 2022
  • 100% of all revenue in fiscal 2023 and thereafter

Utah voters will cast a non-binding opinion on whether they would approve of an additional 10% gasoline tax to help fund education and local roads. Currently, all gas-tax revenue is dedicated to transportation. This increase, if subsequently approved by the Utah Legislature, would increase money for road projects, freeing up cash for education.

Other initiatives include school board term limits, community college charters and university bonds. Voter registration deadlines for the Nov. 6 election are, in most states, in early October, though some offer registration up to Election Day. Check with your state’s Department of Elections.

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