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TRUTH TEST: Pro-66 ad stretches specifics of education spending

8:12 PM, Oct 29, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - A week out from the Nov. 5 election, supporters of Amendment 66 are still working the airwaves, trying to convince voters to support the $950 million income tax hike to increase public school funding.

9NEWS will hold those who run political ads on our networks accountable for what they say.

Check out previous Truth Tests

For Truth Tests on Amendment 66 specifically, we have tested ads against the proposal and in favor of it earlier this year.

In this Truth Test, we examine another ad in favor of the amendment.

The ad builds on a theme from the "yes" campaign, emphasizing that money from the ballot question goes to the classroom, as opposed to administration and other areas of the education system.

As for the truth of it, this ad is a mixed bag.

Claim: With Amendment 66, "we can hire 1,000 more teachers and teacher aides."
Verdict: TRUE, but needs context

Because the ad copy couched the statement with "can," this claim is true.

The campaigns says they chose this number because it's a conservative estimate after surveying school districts.

Indeed, the amendment raises more than enough money to do all that hiring.

However, the claim needs context.

Amendment 66 itself doesn't spell out that the money has to be used for hiring teachers and aides.

Colorado is a local control state, which means districts will be calling most of the shots about how they spend this money.

Claim: Amendment 66 can bring back gym, music, and art classes
Verdict: TRUE, but needs context

Not all districts cut gym, music, and art classes.

Those that did can elect to use the increased funding to restore these programs.

But it's important to remember, this is a local-level decision, not something spelled out in the amendment.

Claim: Amendment 66 costs $133 per year for the average family
Verdict: FAIR (median income- previously tested)

Technically they're referring to the "median" Colorado income, not the average.

To give an idea of what the typical family in Colorado will pay, we've judged this claim FAIR before. Read why in our previous Truth Test.

The tax burden of Amendment 66 varies greatly depending on your specific tax deductions and exemptions.

The Official State Calculator

Claim: "Amendment 66 creates a classroom trust fund, money dedicated to classrooms, written into the state constitution."
Verdict: OVERSTATEMENT

Most of this funding will probably go to classrooms, but the amendment doesn't have language dedicating the money to classrooms.

The "trust fund" the ad refers to is what the amendment labels the "educational achievement fund."

The language of the amendment dedicated the money broadly "to benefit the education of" students by "implementing reforms" and enhancing existing programs.

From the text of Amendment 66:

THE STATE EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT FUND SHALL BE
APPROPRIATED TO BENEFIT THE EDUCATION OF PARTICIPANTS IN
PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS AND PUBLIC SCHOOL KINDERGARTEN
THROUGH TWELFTH GRADE STUDENTS BY IMPLEMENTING EDUCATIONAL
REFORMS AND PROGRAMMATIC ENHANCEMENTS, ENACTED BY THE COLORADO
GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

Again, districts get to decide what they need, whether it's in the class, administration to support the class, or a program to help kids after class.

It would have been better to claim that the money goes to "education" or to "benefit students."

BOTTOM LINE

To be clear: it's not like the money that Amendment 66 would raise can be taken away from education, you simply can't get this specific about what part of education it pays for if you leave spending decisions up to officials at the local level.

The yes campaign told 9NEWS it's trying to make this simple to understand, but we find they are also trying to make the money seem more specifically targeted than it is.


(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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