THE BLOG
11/14/2013 10:27 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Frack Tax

Can deplorable be a complement?

When I was in the legislature the Denver Public Schools graduated less than half its students on time -- on time means 9th graders graduate in four years. Now DPS graduates almost 60 percent on time -- deplorable, but a striking improvement over just a few years.

Occasionally I was lobbied to support additional performance testing, financial literacy classes or other enhancements of varying merit. The proposals were uniformly well intentioned, but I had little interest. Of what value is a financial literacy class to a kid who leaves school before taking it?

Last week Colorado voted down more school money -- by almost two to one. In 2011 voters rejected another school funding proposal by about the same margin.

The 2011 campaign raised almost no money. The 2013 campaign spent well over $10 million. How could talented campaign managers spend that much money to such little effect?

Before last week's election I knocked on a lot of doors and talked to a lot of voters. I found a lot of hostility.

  • A state department of education analyst used to work at DPS. First hand, she saw its top administrators paid way too much. Most of us have heard similar complaints about business CEOs. But we don't vote on their salary.
  • A teacher at a West High non-traditional program didn't like where the money was going -- presumably traditional education.
  • A Douglas County resident opposes vouchers. That school board supports vouchers. She doesn't want that board using the new money to subsidize wealthy families' private school tuition.

Anti-fracking proposals did pass in 2013.

Perhaps we should listen to the voters. Next time, don't ask folks to reach into their own pockets. Colorado fracking uses around six billion gallons of water a year. Each penny a gallon would produce $60m. Time for a frac tax.