Backers of a proposed measure to create a financial-aid program for students who need extra help turned in signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Friday to put their idea on this fall’s ballot.
Currently known as Initiative 25, the proposal would provide financial aid to students who need special tutoring or technical training.
Called LEAP, for Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress, the program is to improve opportunities and outcomes for students who need additional help but can’t afford it.
“The more than 200,000 signatures we submitted (Friday) underscore the broad level of support for the measure to help close the opportunity gap that exists throughout Colorado,” said Heidi Ragsdale, a former District 51 science teacher and now chief executive officer of the Grand Junction-based company, STEM Is My Future.
“We want kids to be able to get the help they need and pursue out-of-school opportunities that help them grow as learners and citizens.”
The proposal needs at least 124,632 signatures to qualify.
The program calls for about $109 million a year from a proposed 5% sales tax increase on recreational marijuana, and from a portion of the royalties that Colorado earns from private business activities on state lands.
It would go to students in low-income families to help pay for tutors, additional support for students with special needs, and aid in preparing for tests.
The idea has bipartisan support, including from former Colorado Govs. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and Bill Owens, a Republican.
“Throughout Colorado, we have a persistent education gap between the rich and the poor, between those who have access to tutors, technology and other out-of-school tools, and those who do not,” said state Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.
“The LEAP initiative is an excellent opportunity to provide tutoring, test preparation, enrichment programs and more to Colorado students who often have the greatest needs, yet limited family resources,” said former Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.
“Providing every student in Colorado with out-of-school benefits which can be tailored to their specific needs should help them overcome academic setbacks exacerbated by COVID.”