Colorado's cannabis industry could provide $137 million annually for after school programs, but Teacher’s Union doesn't want the drug money
Purchasing cannabis could become a civic duty...
A proposal to hike recreational cannabis taxes in Colorado by 5%, could raise upwards of $137 million annually to fund tutoring programs, mental health care, career training and more. It’s called “Initiative 25” or “Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress” (LEAP) and it’s aimed at closing the gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.
This is the kind of rational policy, just about everyone should be able to get behind. Sure, 5% higher taxes on recreational cannabis will be a bummer for some. But it will also be going to a really good cause: enriching this state’s education system. Which makes smoking weed, almost feel like a civic duty.
“Low-income kids by fifth grade will be up to two to three grade levels behind just because of the lack of exposure they’re getting to after-school programming and summer school programming,” said former state Senator Mike Johnston. This bill would help balance that inequity out.
However, the state’s teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association, doesn’t want the extra capital. They withdrew their support for the initiative earlier this month, citing “concerns and uncertainties” on how it would be implemented. CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert voiced questions about whether all Colorado students will be able to access the after-school programs, and how resources like transportation will shake out under it.
She agrees that there’s a gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and she agrees that COVID has widened that gap immensely. Similarly to Johnston, she is fearful that there will be lasting effects on students because of that.
But weed money isn’t the way to close that gap, according to Baca-Oehlert and the teachers union. There are just too many questions about how such an initiative would actually work.
The real question, though is: would Baca-Oehlert and the teachers union give a damn if this money was coming from any industry besides cannabis? Would they remove their support if it had been the ski industry, offering $137 million annually for after school enrichment? Would they still be taking a neutral stance, if that wasn’t “drug money”? ...
Probably not, to answer all of the above. This initiative could easily provide summer camp opportunities and tutoring throughout the school-year for struggling lower-income students, and could easily help close the widening gap between low-income students and more affluent ones. At the same time, it gives recreational cannabis consumers a chance to give back to this state’s education system, with every purchase.
The initiative needs 250,000 signatures in order to make it onto the November ballot, and Johnston is confident that they’ll get them. With or without support from the teacher’s union, most people seem pretty confident that this question will be put to Colorado stoners- I mean voters- in November.