Earlier this week, on a party line vote, Colorado House Democrats passed HB21-1055, a bill that would allow school board members to pay themselves with taxpayer dollars. Colorado has 178 school districts, which are governed by 178 locally elected, unpaid school boards.
At a time when education budgets are under pressure and schools are clamoring for more money, why in the world would we divert taxpayer dollars away from the classroom and into the pockets of elected politicians?
The bill was the brainchild of Rep. Steven Woodrow (D-Denver) and Senator Brittany Peterson (D-Lakewood), as well as Denver school board member Tay Anderson, who testified on behalf of the legislation. Tay has been under fire recently for a series of fundraising efforts to privately enrich himself from contributions from often undisclosed donors, and it is unclear if Tay is employed outside of his duties as an unpaid school board member.
If you think paying politicians instead of teachers with education tax dollars is generally a bad idea, wait until you hear about the proposed amendments to the legislation that were all shot down.
One amendment would require the school board to ask local voters for permission to divert local tax dollars towards paying elected school board members. It was rejected.
Another amendment capped the compensation that school board members could be paid at 50% of a starting teacher’s salary. It was voted down.
Another would apply the gift ban that’s in place for all other elected officials to elected school board members. It was shot down.
Yet another amendment would require that the state track the total amount of taxpayer money used to pay elected school board members so taxpayers could know exactly how much money was being taken from the classroom. It was also defeated.
Colorado has historically had a strong bipartisan streak when it comes to education policy, with reform-minded Democrats and Republicans banding together to improve the state’s schools.
The emergence of poorly thought out legislation, that diverts limited taxpayer funding for education away from the classroom and towards elected officials, and which was rammed through the House on a party-line vote, does not bode well for the state of education policy in Colorado.
Let’s hope it’s not a trend that continues.