NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mixed Results On Colorado Schools' "Performance Guarantee"

November 9, 1999

Voters in Jefferson County (suburban Denver), Colorado, narrowly approved a property tax increase for school funding tied to a promise to improve student test scores -- but a similar measure failed by a wide margin in nearby Colorado Springs.

The vote in Jefferson County was 50.6 percent for, 49.4 percent against. In Colorado Springs, 61 percent of voters refused to increase school funding, even with the promise of higher student achievement in the future.

Here is the Jefferson County plan in essence:

  • The 90,000-student school district receives a $25 million annual increase to its $455 million budget.
  • If scores on a state standardized test improve by 7.5 percent in the 2001-02 school year, the district receives $31 million.
  • If scores rise by 15 percent over the baseline the following year, the district gets $37 million -- and $45 million in 2003-04 if they improve by 25 percent.
  • The exams are administered to students in grades 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8.

"At first blush it seems like a wonderful idea," says Jon Caldera, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden. "It looks like a performance-based tax increase, but even if test scores fall through the floor, they still have this massive tax increase."

Caldera argues that the best way to ensure school performance would be through a voucher program. "That's the ultimate linking of achievement to funding," he says.

Source: Valerie Richardson, "Voters Tie Grades to More Funds for Schools," Washington Times, November 9, 1999.

 

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