According to Denver Election Division.
The group behind My Denver spark submitted enough endorsed signatures for the proposal to go to the city’s Nov. 8 ballot. The initiative proposes to raise Denver’s recreational marijuana sales taxes by 4.5% to subsidize $1,000 stipends that would be distributed to Denver families for learning enrichment programs.
According to supporters of My Spark Denver, the tax hike would raise $22.5 million a year, which would serve about 20,000 children between the ages of five and 18. Under the proposal, 0.3% of Denver’s current marijuana tax revenue, or about $1.5 million annually, would also go to My Spark Denver.
Colorado voters rejected a similar proposal to My Spark Denver last November. Proposition 119 had called for a 5% increase in marijuana sales taxes statewide to help fund a new after-school education program. Although this measure lost an 8.5% margin statewide, it fared better in Denver, where nearly 49% of voters approved the measure.
Prop 119 and the My Spark Denver campaign are funded by Gary Community Enterpriseswho has spent more than $1 million advancing Prop 119 and is responsible for My Spark Denver’s $270,000 in contributions so far, according to the Denver Clerk’s Office.
Gary Community Ventures would not comment on My Spark Denver, but the initiative has public support from groups such as the YMCA of Metro Denver, Healthier Colorado, Servicios de la Raza, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Northeast Denver Islamic Center, Tepeyac Community Health Center , Colorado Black Roundtable and Movimiento Poder; State Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierres, whose district is in Denver, is also a supporter.
Mike Cortés, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Denver, has been advocating for equity in education since he was a professor at DU. Now a member of the steering committee of My Spark Denver, Cortés says the COVID-19 pandemic has “amplified” learning inequalities between low-income families and middle- and high-income families, with many low-income families being from communities of color.
“The main thing that worries me is that for many years the academic performance of Latinos in public schools has not been what it should be. We are seeing in Denver, in particular, that Latino children are more likely to attend relatively well-resourced schools and are less likely to do well academically,” he says, adding that the quality of home-based learning during the pandemic school closures relied heavily on parental resources.
“Too many low-income families don’t have enough bandwidth at home, if any, to effectively connect with all of their children’s teachers,” he says. “Somehow a bad situation has gotten worse now.”
The $1,000 stipends could be used for after-school programs that provide tutoring and “additional academic instruction” in educational fields, as well as sports activities, job training or mental health. Funds could also be used for educational materials and transportation required to participate in such programs.
Proposition 119 was criticized within the education community for several reasons, including that it allocated no funds for public school programs and also blocked free education service providers. The structure of its supervisory board has also been criticized. My Spark Denver’s setup would be similar, with the program run by a nine-member board of directors. The mayor of Denver would appoint seven such members; one would be a member of the Denver City Council and the ninth the superintendent of Denver Public Schools or a person appointed by the Superintendent of DPS.
The My Spark Denver Board of Directors would select and approve education providers for the program, with public schools and public school teachers being pre-approved as providers, according to the proposal. Children would have to live in Denver and be eligible for admission to a public school to be eligible for funds, but My Spark Denver language does not specify whether a child should actually be enrolled in a public school.
The DPS declined to comment on the ballot initiative. The Colorado Education Associationa Denver-based Colorado teachers’ union with nearly 40,000 members, did not respond to requests for comment.
Denver voters rejected two separate proposals to increase the marijuana tax in the 2021 election. The city’s overall sales tax on recreational pot, which includes a handful of state and local rates, is currently 26.41%. It would eclipse 30% if My Spark Denver succeeds, putting Denver above the rest of Colorado for marijuana sales tax rates.
Several members of Denver’s marijuana industry, amid a year-long decline in product prices and sales revenue, oppose My Spark Denver. According Marijuana Industry Group Executive Director Truman Bradley, a higher tax rate could worsen the bad situation of dispensaries, some of which have already closed due to poor sales.
“There are more than 40,000 badged employees and nearly 2,000 owners working and doing business in Colorado’s cannabis business. As a Denver part of those employees and businesses, we view this tax increase as a threat. for our livelihoods,” Bradley wrote in a public letter to Denver. Municipal Council. “Marijuana businesses in Colorado, like many other businesses, are suffering significantly due to high generational inflation nationwide. The marijuana industry has experienced more than 12 consecutive months of declining sales.”
Federal prohibition of marijuana prevents marijuana companies from obtaining tax exemptions, forcing dispensaries to pay overall tax rates of more than 70%, according to Bradley, who adds that income from marijuana has become a overused resource for state or voter-backed projects.
Cortés thinks paying the extra 4.5% at dispensaries is worth it, though.
“All things considered with the social justice aspect of this, when you think about the impact of inadequate parenting for children, it outweighs asking people who buy marijuana to pay a little more at the store,” he says.
Here is the language of the My Spark Denver initiative, as well as the details of the petition: