By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver
(Castle Rock, CO) In a few weeks, Colorado voters will decide whether to provide free meals for all K-12 public school students by increasing state taxes for individuals earning a federally adjusted gross income of $300,000 or more.
Proposition FF reduces state income tax deductions for the wealthiest 113,000 or 4.4% of Coloradans and will raise around $100 million for the program in the next fiscal year.
According to the Denver Post, “Taxpayers with incomes of $300,000 a year or more would pay an estimated $884 more in taxes, on average, according to an analysis by nonpartisan legislative staff. Taxpayers with incomes lower than that wouldn’t see a change.”
Colorado schools offer meal assistance for those who qualify based on income or other extenuating circumstances. But for others, meals become a part of their school debt.
Proposition FF needs a simple majority to pass.
Healthy meals for all
A coalition of parents, educators, and anti-hunger advocates known as Healthy Meals for All Colorado Students leads the charge, and more than 100 nonprofit organizations support the measure.
According to the organization’s website, “more than 60,000 kids in Colorado can’t afford school meals but don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and 2 out of every 5 Colorado families struggle to put food on the table for their children.”
While official data from the Colorado Department of Education isn’t available until November, preliminary reports show that thousands more kids ate school lunches during the pandemic thanks to a federal grant that made them accessible for all students regardless of income.
Program promotes locally-grown food sources
Proposition FF’s ballot language says the measure will provide grants to “participating schools to purchase Colorado grown, raised, or processed products, to increase wages or provide stipends for employees who prepare and serve school meals, and to create parent and student advisory committees to provide advice to ensure school meals are healthy and appealing to all students.”
Proposition FF will also create a program to promote Colorado food products and prepare school meals using basic nutritious ingredients with minimal reliance on processed products.
The Denver Post writes that Proposition FF has no organized opposition but that some conservative policy organizations and think tanks have urged their followers to vote no. They argue that the state doesn’t need more government-funded programs and that it comes with a high price tag.
Opposing comments in the Colorado voter’s guide state that inflation is at an all-time high and the cost of living is increasing, and voters should be able to spend their money as they see fit.
They also say that taxpayers shouldn’t have to provide meals for kids who can afford to purchase them or bring them from home, and the program would require ongoing resources and oversight for a program that all students don’t need.
And, if taxpayers want to give more money to schools, districts should be able to use it how they see fit, like increasing teacher pay or purchasing more educational resources.