Colorado’s Proposition 119: A Blind LEAP of Faith!

In her Op-Ed, Colorado Initiative 25: A Blind LEAP of Faith, author and researcher Patti Kurgan explains the fine print of this very bad initiative. While supporters of the initiative opine that it is a step toward school choice, Patti delves into the bait and switch of this narrative. She sheds light on a new bureaucracy, funded by a new 5% tax on marijuana and money from the state land trust, that is unelected and unaccountable to every-day, hard-working Coloradans.

When we hear the word “LEAP” we think positive, moving forward, going in a specific direction, jumping with spirit into the air. In the case of Initiative 25, “LEAP” brings to mind vastly different thoughts. Expansion of government, bureaucrats unaccountable to any authority, government intervention, teacher unions, carve outs, indoctrination, Democrat one-party rule, out of state interests, more taxes, to name just a few.

LEAP is an acronym for Initiative 25 circulating around the state for signatures. It stands for Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) Program (not to be confused with the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program). Once again, the progressive Democrats use a narrative that sounds appealing only to find out that their key highlights of the initiative are masking the truth.

The ballot initiative will be voted on this November if enough signatures are recorded by the August 2nd deadline. It states that the voters declare that out-of-school “learning opportunities” are critical for all Colorado students. Have you or your network of concerned families been talking about this? Or is this another petri-dish experiment coming from outside interests? The major concerns of parents, students, business organizations, and others within the community is the lack of academic knowledge students acquire during their school day and the economy. This past year students have suffered in front of computer screens trying to learn math, reading, writing skills and science while the teacher unions worked with school boards to prevent the return of students to the classroom. Interesting to note here in Colorado traditional public schools stayed out of the classroom as private and charter schools went back into the classroom.

This initiative will create a whole new agency that will not be held accountable to any entity. It is an “independent agency within the department of education.” There are enough unnecessary personnel found within the department of education (think excessive administrators). Growing government has never been successful and only leads to winners and losers. We know historically that as government grows so does its monetary needs.

Starting with the first paragraph of the initiative it states that LEAP is for “All Colorado Children.” In fact, the term “All Colorado Children” is used five times on the first page. Unfortunately, most people only read the first page and as a consequence will have a leap into the dark. In the middle of the third page we get to the students who will receive benefits from this program with the introduction of the term “Eligible Children.” “Eligible Children” is used numerous times throughout the remaining eleven pages and “All Colorado Children” completely disappears. Eligibility will depend on the student’s academic progress and more importantly on the household income starting with those at or below one hundred percent of the federal poverty level.

The after school program that is to be established for “Eligible Children” includes, but not limited to

tutoring and supplemental academic instruction in core subject areas, including
reading, mathematics, science, and writing; targeted support for children and
youth with special needs and learning disabilities; English language and foreign
language acquisition; career and technical education training; other programs
that provide academic or enrichment opportunities; and reasonable and
necessary materials and supplies to complete or participate in a learning opportunity.

Additionally, and conveniently left out in recent mainstream media reporting, this initiative will give

emotional and physical therapy, mental health services, social emotional learning, mentoring, and other services that support students in their pursuit of a holistic and meaningful education.

This initiative is not just about education. A few questions come to mind. Will Planned Parenthood be a part of the program regarding health? Will social emotional learning include the No Place for Hate or CRT (Critical Race Theory)? Is this an open door for the progressive left’s agenda on social justice and equitable education? The indoctrination present in the classroom will extend outside under the guise of “tutoring” and other support services. Many of these issues are being argued in front of school boards across the country right now, including here in Colorado.

There is reference in the initiative as to who can be an educator. Providers must be certified. The Authority will

pre-certify local school districts, boards of cooperative services, and other local education providers and create a process to ensure priority approval of educators as qualified providers.

In fact, the initiative states:

Implementation of the learning enrichment and academic progress program will provide …
Additional employment opportunities for individual educators and providers.

Are these not the same “educators” who are failing our students in the classroom? Taxpayer money will be used to reward the failures with monetary gain for teachers and districts through this program. Why do they think the outcome will be any better?

It is important to note who cannot be a provider.

Immediate family members are not eligible to be qualified providers in the provision of services to their child or youth.

Message to homeschoolers and hybrid learners: No need to apply. If you were thinking of using any funds for a class online or some other educational class you need not look any further as the initiative explicitly states that the

“Learning Opportunity” does not include credit recovery programs. … “Learning Opportunity” does not include payment of school tuition.

What is the cost? The financial aid for “Eligible Children” is as follows:

The total annual financial aid distribution for each prioritized eligible child or youth participating in the program is at least one-thousand five hundred dollars, and may provide financial aid awards to non-prioritized Eligible Children or youth in amounts less than one thousand five hundred dollars as determined by the authority.

The supporter’s webpage on LEAP is inaccurate when it states students and families

will receive up to $1,500 in financial aid to spend on out-of-school learning opportunities such as tutoring, science summer camps, and supplemental special-education support.

Why deceive voters when one only needs to read the ballot initiative to see the truth? They may be hoping most people will not read the entirety of the initiative.

Who is the “Authority” that determines “eligibility” for our students and what services will be available from a pre-select learning opportunities menu across the state? Initially, it is a board of nine members who are appointed by the governor with the approval of the senate. In our one-party system in Colorado, we already know the direction of the board. There are also four non-voting members between 14-18 years of age, one which must be appointed by the Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (total American Indian and Alaska Native population in Colorado was 1% in 2019). All members are allowed to receive per diems.

The funding source for this program will come by an additional 5% tax on marijuana and money from the state land trust which already is used as a funding source for public schools. Sin taxes are always the best for getting support on government spending, right? Remember, they can always come back and say they do not have enough money for all “Eligible Children” and will go to other sin taxes like alcohol and tobacco. If this legislative session of 2021 taught us anything, the current legislators will tax us any way they can even under cover by calling it a fee, and fees in massive amounts.

It is always good to look at what two opposing sides have in common. In this case, we have a lot. Both sides will agree that student’s educational performance is poor. We can agree that “all children” have different learning styles exhibiting certain strengths and weaknesses. Students need a well-rounded education that includes STEM and the arts. This initiative is calling for the money to follow the student. It allows students and parents to choose what is best for their circumstances, although the initiative only allows options from a pre-select menu.

I thank the sponsors for giving support to discussion points on school choice. Colorado should embrace charter schools throughout the state. All parents can then choose what is best for their student/s, whether it is classic liberal arts learning, STEM, the creative arts or something else. We can have vouchers as the money follows the student in order for parents to pick and choose from available options from all educational resources to give their student/s the best educational environment. We need to fund students and parents.

Decline to sign Initiative 25, LEAP. Say no to growing a failed education system that has no accountability to you and Coloradans. Instead, support school choice that will fund families and students, not systems. By increasing educational options, it will also put pressure on the government run schools to listen to parents and make improvements.

The complete ballot initiative can be read here.



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