Rocky reported Caldara's criticism of Ritter's education funding plan without providing a response or noting support


In an April 21 article about a conservative think tank's report criticizing Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's proposal to freeze property tax rates as part of a plan to help fund Colorado schools, the Rocky Mountain News failed to include a response from Ritter or proponents of the plan. The article also did not mention that the plan has won support from a number of groups, as the News reported a day earlier.

An April 21 Rocky Mountain News article about Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) school funding plan reported the criticisms of Independence Institute president Jon Caldara, but it provided no response from Ritter or supporters of his plan. The News also ignored its own reporting from a day earlier that noted, "Ritter's plan to freeze property tax rates to fund schools won support Thursday from business, health and education leaders."

The April 21 News article titled "Report bashes Ritter's school funding plan," by staff writer Berny Morson, stated, "Legislators should alter the state's school funding requirements instead of trying to raise more money for education, the head of a free-market think tank said Friday." It further reported:

"They're avoiding the problem," said Jon Caldara, the director of the Golden-based Independence Institute. "It's like an alcoholic who wants to blame everything else except the booze."

Budget analysts say the state education fund will be in the red by the 2011-12 school year at current spending rates.

Gov. Bill Ritter proposes to cancel scheduled reductions in property tax rates to keep the fund solvent.

A report released Thursday by Caldara's group calls Ritter's proposal a tax increase because businesses and homeowners would pay more than if current law is not altered.

The report also takes issue with attorneys for the legislature, who have said in two opinions that Ritter's plan does not violate the tax limitation amendment passed by voters in 1992, called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. That measure requires a referendum on all tax increases.

Ritter's proposal "clearly violates the spirit of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights," the report says.

While the article highlighted Caldara's criticism and the Independence Institute's report, it provided no response from Ritter regarding his plan to freeze property tax rates to help fund education. Furthermore, the article failed to note that Ritter's plan has drawn support from "business, health and education leaders," as the News reported on April 20.

While the earlier article -- also by Morson -- observed that "Ritter's proposal has been rejected by all but one of the legislature's Republicans and receives only tepid support from Democrats," it noted that the plan has received support from other groups:

Pediatrician Jim Shira, of Children's Hospital, warned that unless the state's school funding mess is resolved, money will be drained from other programs, such as health care.

"Kids who depend on health insurance from Medicaid, the children's basic health plan, are all vulnerable if we can't stabilize the state's education fund," said Shira, who also represents the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Shira was among 25 community leaders who addressed a press conference called by the Colorado Children's Campaign, which also supports the governor's plan.

Ritter has proposed freezing the property tax rates in most districts, in effect heading off reductions that would take effect next year.

The net increase for schools would be about $55 million per year under the proposal being discussed with lawmakers.

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