Did Referendum C fix Colorado school funding problems?
First and foremost, the passage of Referendum C prevented deep and irreparable cuts not just to public schools, but to colleges, public health programs, and other critical state services as well. What Referendum C did not do is address the underlying causes of Colorado’s inability to fund schools adequately. Referendum C did make possible some modest investments in public schools above and beyond the funding required by Amendment 23 (the citizen initiative passed in 2000 that requires minimum annual increases in per pupil spending). In 2007, for instance, the Legislature added some funding above the Amendment 23 minimum to expand early childhood education and increase reimbursement for special education costs.
Unfortunately, Referendum C did not address Colorado’s underlying constitutional budget knot formed by TABOR and Gallagher, nor did it expand Colorado’s revenue base. As a result, it served only as a fiscal band-aid, and Colorado now faces an even worse budget outlook than when Referendum C was passed in 2005.