Educators and political junkies who’ve been wondering where the Amendment 66 campaign has been now need to look no farther than their TVs – the first ads boosting the amendment aired Tuesday.

Screen shot of TV ad
Screen shot of pro-Amendment 66 TV ad

The two spots, each 15 seconds long and airing in various TV markets around the state, carry the punch line “Big change, small price.”

The first shows a classroom scene, and the announcer says, “More teacher aides for $133 a year. Amendment 66 puts the money in the classroom. Big change, small price.”

The second ad shows kids in gym class, with the announcer saying, “Bring back gym class for $133 a year. Amendment 66 keeps money out of administration. Big change, small price.”

The spots run back-to-back.

The $133 a-year figure is the additional tax that the pro-66 campaign estimates will be paid on $57,685 a year, Colorado’s median household income. (You can view the ads here.)

Amendment 66 would raise the state’s individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on incomes up to $75,000. Earnings above $75,000 would be taxed at 5.9 percent. The additional money raised by the new tax would be earmarked for education. (See page 5 of the state’s “Blue Book” voter guide for additional estimates of how the new tax would affect different income levels.)

Amendment 66 is a package deal with Senate Bill 13-213, a law passed last spring that would make major changes in Colorado’s school finance formula. The law won’t go into effect unless voters pass the tax hike. Major elements of SB 13-213 would provide preschool funding for all eligible at-risk students and cover full-day kindergarten costs for all students.

The law also would substantially increase funding for at-risk students and English language learners. But the bill does not specify spending on teacher aides, gym classes or to reduce class sizes. Those decisions would be up to individual school districts.

EdNews asked campaign officials about the size of the ad buy, in which markets ads had been placed and about the duration and cost of the campaign.

Curtis Hubbard, spokesman for Colorado Commits to Kids, would only say, “It’s a statewide ad buy that includes the three major markets and reaches SW Colorado via Albuquerque stations. Our aim is to reach as many voters as possible in the next five weeks to let them see for themselves that Amendment 66 promises big changes for a small price,” adding that the campaign will last “until at least 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5.”

Hubbard wouldn’t disclose the cost of the ads, saying “Financial details of the campaign are made available in our regular public disclosures.”

A source not connected with the campaign did some of his own research on Colorado Commits ad buys and told EdNews he believes the campaign has purchased ads costing at least $420,000 a week in the Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction markets.

In its news release, the campaign said the ads were produced by Putnam Partners, a Virginia-based political advertising firm. In its Sept. 30 spending report, the campaign reported paying Putnam $106,558 during the prior two weeks. (See this EdNews story for a full report on the latest Colorado Commits contributions and spending.)

While there’s been a lot of chatter in the education community about the low-key character of the campaign to date, Colorado Commits has been busy setting up field offices and hiring canvassers and conducting a fairly active campaign on social media.

Mayor Hancock endorses 66

Amendment 66 news conference
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock formally endorsed Amendment 66 on Oct. 1 at the Clayton Early Learning Center. The campaign logo had been chalked on the parking lot, along with a few thousand stick figures of children.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, flanked by sign-waving campaign volunteers and staffers, Tuesday endorsed the amendment.

“I am voting for Amendment 66 because when it comes down to it, it’s time for everyone of us to stand in the gap for Colorado kids,” he said.

The event was held at the Clayton Early Learning Center in northeast Denver to emphasize Amendment 66’s impact on preschool programs. Charlotte Brantling, head of Clayton, and Qualistar Colorado Vice President Heather Tritten also spoke in support.

The pep rally was staged on an asphalt parking lot on which had been chalked a full color Colorado Commits logo and a few thousand colorful stick figures of children. Creation of the chalk drawings was recorded on video and could show up in a future campaign video or ad. As the rally broke up, a maintenance man wheeled a power washer onto the lot, ready to clean it off.