Oct 27, 2021 - Politics
1-minute ballot guide: Proposition 119 pitches pot tax hike for tutoring
Illustration of the Colorado flag with a checkmark and box instead of a C and the sun.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In the 2021 statewide election, Colorado voters will decide a major education policy question:

  • Whether to divert money for public schools and increase marijuana retail taxes to cover the cost for a new private tutoring program.

How it works: The measure — known as LEAP for the Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program — creates a new independent state agency overseen by a board of the governor's appointees.

  • If approved, it will pay providers of out-of-school learning and enrichment programs to offer tutoring, training, mental health and other learning services.
  • An unspecified number of children ages 5 to 17 would be eligible to receive money through the program.

What it will cost: The program will gradually increase recreational cannabis taxes from 15% to 20% by 2024, generating an estimated $138 million at the top.

  • It also spends $40 million otherwise destined for public schools in the next two years, and diverts an estimated $31 million over the following decade.

What they're saying: Supporters, including Gov. Jared Polis, tout parental choice in how the dollars are spent. The ballot measure's backers also cite learning loss from the pandemic as an example of why LEAP is needed.

The other side: School boards and other public education advocates criticize the measure for taking money away from public school classrooms, calling it a "voucher program."

  • Opponents also are concerned the tax dollars would go to groups that could deny services to certain students based on religious or social issues.

Go deeper: Denver pot taxes are high. Two ballot measures would increase them.

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