Tuition Tax Credit Initiative Fails

Published December 1, 1998

Voters in Colorado rejected by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin the Amendment 17 ballot initiative that would have provided tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools. Colorado’s first Republican governor in 24 years, governor-elect Bill Owens, responded to the defeat by saying that legislation for tuition tax credits and school vouchers should not be introduced anytime soon.

“There will be changes in terms of education reform, but those changes will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary,” Owens told the Denver Post. He did not rule out the possibility of pilot programs.

Greg Kail, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Denver, expressed disappointment with the outcome, noting that the campaign had focused too much on fear of the unknown rather than on educating children. If the Amendment had passed, the nurturing, disciplined, and respectful environment of Catholic schools could have been offered to more disadvantaged children, he said.

“Catholic schools have a great track record with low-income children, and something like Amendment 17 would have allowed families to access that learning environment that they can’t access in some other places,” Kail told the Glenwood Post.

Following the failure of the tuition tax credit initiative, the Archdiocese will turn to other programs to help low-income families send their children to Catholic schools. For example, the Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust distributed approximately $400,000 this year, but has a goal of $7 million.

Amendment 17 supporters took some consolation in the fact that they had closed the gap since 1992, when a school voucher proposal was defeated by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin.