Oct 27, 2023 - Election

1-minute voter guide: What to know about Referred Question 2P in Denver

Illustration of a chalkboard with three digital-style dollar signs on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

For the third time in 17 years, the Denver City Council is asking voters to approve a sales tax increase to help subsidize preschool education for low-income families.

Why it matters: Each of the first two elections β€” in 2006 and 2014 β€” resulted in narrow approval.

  • The current 0.15% sales tax levy expires in 2026. But the council wants to make it permanent through Referred Question 2P.

How it works: The sales tax dedicates 15 cents of every $100 purchase toward the Denver Preschool Program.

  • The money goes to three main sources: preschool tuition costs for families that can't afford it, subsidies to providers to make improvements and stipends to "show appreciation" for teachers, according to the organization's annual report.
  • The program spent $28.8 million in fiscal year 2021-22 with $18.3 million going toward tuition assistance.

The intrigue: Now that Colorado has a statewide preschool program that covers at least 15 hours of preschool instruction, the Denver program is helping with the remaining costs for families and expanding to cover some 3-year-olds.

By the numbers: The preschool program says its evaluations show that 61% of preschool students pass kindergarten reading tests, compared with 50% for those that didn't attend.

  • Over 17 years, the program has served 65,000 students, supporters say.

The other side: No organization is mounting an opposition campaign, but sales tax is regressive, meaning it hits lower-income families harder than others.


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