With all apologies to advocates of big government, local school boards should decide on classroom funding. It's not a decision to be made by the governor, by strict formula, by state lawmakers, or even statewide voters.

Conservatives used to embrace the value of local control, but Gov. Bill Owens this week became the 100,000th signature on a petition that would put an ill-advised question before voters in November: Should schools spend 65 percent of their money on classroom instruction?

It sounds like an easy answer. Who wants to see tax money wasted on bloated administrative costs? But dig a little deeper and it's easy to see this proposal for what it is: a campaign slogan for Republican lawmakers who want to appear pro-education.

Voters should be wary of any proposal that aims to eliminate flexibility in how local officials budget their tax money. But this idea is bad for many other reasons, too, including:

1. It would hurt rural school districts that spend more on transportation costs.

2. It doesn't include counselors as a "classroom" expense, and if we've learned anything from the Colorado Paradox - the fact we have an educated populace yet do a poor job of sending our own on to college - it's that there's a real need for qualified counselors. Not just those counselors who set students on the right academic path toward college, but those who steer our young people back onto the right path socially.

3. It's foolish to expect small rural school districts to budget money under the same formula used by large urban districts that have different challenges and expenses. One size fits all? That's unreasonable.

4. Colorado has something called local control for schools. If a community decides its schools aren't spending enough on classroom instruction, it can elect a new school board.

Equally absurd is Rep. Michael Merrifield's proposal to require schools to spend 75 percent of their operating costs in the classroom. See Nos. 3 and 4 above. However, his bill would include the costs of counselors, principals and food service. Its intent is clear enough - giving Democrats something to counter the Republicans' "65 percent solution."

Lawmakers should kill Merrifield's bill as soon as it's introduced, and voters should turn down the GOP version if it makes it to the November ballot.

Our schools have enough challenges. They don't need a formula provided by Big Brother telling them how to spend their money.