By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – A measure to increase school funding could be the first to make the 2018 ballot.

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(credit: CBS)

Proponents of Initiative 73 say they turned in more than 170,000 signatures — almost double what’s needed to make the ballot. The measure is the first to meet a new bar for constitutional measures — securing signatures from at least 2 percent of voters in all 35 Senate districts.

Duane Brown who sits on the Yuma School Board is among those backing the measure. Yuma High School is 42 years old. Brown says rural districts have a tough time passing bond measures because agriculture is struggling.

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“That doesn’t just impact farmers and ranchers. It impacts the entire community because we’re an ‘ag’ community and we depend on it,” Brown said.

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The ballot measure would increase funding for Special Education, Gifted and Talented, English proficiency, and preschool, as well as fund full-day kindergarten statewide.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Lisa Weil with Great Education Colorado. She’s one of the driving forces behind the measure.

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Lisa Weil (credit: CBS)

It would generate $1.6 billion additional dollars for education by next school year by freezing property tax rates for all homeowners — which were set to drop — and increasing taxes on corporations and higher income earners.

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According to analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Council, if you make more than $150,000 in taxable income you’ll pay about $80 more a year. The higher your income, the more you pay. More than $500,000 and your taxes increase more than $42,000 a year.

Proponents know it won’t be easy to pass the measure. The state just had a billion dollar budget surplus, and the legislature just gave schools the biggest funding increase in a decade.

But, Weil says they have unprecedented support from every corner of the state.

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“We are adding 10,000 kids every year to our schools. The influx of kids means there’s more kids, and there’s greater needs, and we know we aren’t doing what we need to meet the social emotional needs of kids,” Weil said. “Everybody wants to do more for mental health and supporting kids that way. People want kids to find the course work that challenges them, that excites them, that makes them want to become the problem solvers of the future. You can’t do that by incrementally going back to where we were before the recession.”

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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