As a parent, I know that my actions now will have a tremendous impact on my child’s future. But this election cycle, each of us has an opportunity to brighten the future of every kid in Colorado.
Proposition EE is on your ballot, and your vote on this critical measure will touch the lives of thousands of Colorado kids for decades to come. I can say this because its passage would allow Colorado to curb teen vaping, protect public schools from the worst of the pandemic-related budget cuts, and invest in our children’s future through quality, universal preschool.
The money generated by the new taxes in this measure would be reinvested in our present and future in a few critical ways. For the first two years, the money would be invested in budget relief for our public schools that are currently facing half a billion in cuts due to COVID-19. Rather than let our school funding fall further behind, Proposition EE would generate $375 million to help offset the worst of those cuts. Rural schools, which are typically the hardest hit by budget cuts and have the least ability to recover, would get about $90 million to help ensure every kid in our state, no matter where they live, gets a good education. My son is in the fifth grade and is at a vulnerable time in his elementary education. Everything he is learning now will set him up for success as he continues his education. Funding for schools has so many implications for our children. We need to maintain positive nurturing school environments and sustain qualified teachers by providing them the pay they deserve. But we can’t do any of that without adequate funding.
Another critically important investment this measure makes in our future is moving Colorado toward free preschool for every four-year-old who wants to go. The educational foundation to every child’s development begins with early childhood education. Preschool is an amazing development opportunity for every child to learn and grow, to develop those key skills that every child needs to be successful in school. Unfortunately, preschool is not something that every child has access to. And one of the main reasons, sadly, is money. The cost of sending your child to preschool is outrageous, and rightfully so. It’s such an important part of a child’s development, and every working family in the state should be able to choose it for their child.
Imagine if every child had access to a quality preschool education. There would be fewer gaps in learning, families and children would be better off, and our local community, including employers, would reap benefits, too, as childcare wouldn’t be an issue for many working families. The research is clear that preschool sets children on a path to success, ensuring better reading earlier, a lower likelihood of being held back in the early grades, and a greater chance of graduating on time. This is a smart investment not only in the success of each child, but in the future of our state’s workforce and economic prosperity.
Unfortunately, Colorado has some of the lowest preschool funding in the nation. The Colorado Preschool Program can only serve about 40 percent of the children who qualify for the program due to lower income levels, learning challenges and other factors. Certainly, when we know what works for our youngest kids in the year before they start kindergarten, we ought to act.
The measure would also help with Colorado’s teen vaping epidemic by closing a tax loophole on vaping products. Currently, Colorado does not have a tax on vaping products. The measure would also increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products over seven years. The increase, which would bring Colorado to roughly the middle of states for tobacco tax rates, has been proven to reduce consumption. Colorado last updated its tobacco taxes in 2004. We know that for every 10 percent cost increase, there is a corresponding 3 percent to 5 percent drop in use. For teens, who are typically more price-sensitive, that percent drop is higher, at 7 percent. In Colorado, where we post one of the highest teen vaping rates in the country at 29 percent, the tax increase just makes sense to help stop use or prevent it from ever starting.
You’ll hear a lot in this election cycle about what we can’t do and what’s not possible. But Proposition EE gives you a chance to act on something we can do by investing money in proven success for our youngest, and discouraging addiction in our youth. That’s an investment in our present and future none of us should pass up.
Adella Arredondo, a Colorado native, is the mother of "three amazing boys, ages ten, four and two." They live in Aurora.
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