In case you missed it (we’re pretty sure you didn’t), the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on February 7th! The Colorado legislature and 1 million of their closest friends celebrated in style, as players and coaches paraded in front of the Capitol and rallied at Civic Center Park. When they weren’t busy cheering on the home team, members of the House and Senate went to work on a number of contentious issues, including climate change, workers’ rights, and death penalty reform. With February nearly half-way over, we expect to see the General Assembly ramp up its efforts to pass a number of priority bills.
House and Senate Education Debate Full-Day Kindergarten
On February 8, the House and Senate Education Committees each debated a bill that sought to expand funding for full-day kindergarten:
- HB16-1022 by Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) would require the state to fund full-day kindergarten in the upcoming 2016-17 budget year, at a cost of nearly $243 million. Currently, Colorado only pays for half-day kindergarten, leaving parents and districts responsible for covering the remaining costs. While legislators expressed concern over the fiscal impact, HB 1022 passed 7-3.
- SB-023 by Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) sought to incrementally increase the amount of money that the state pays for full-day kindergarten programs. The bill would have required the general assembly to fully fund kindergarten by the 2021-22 budget year. SB 23 failed on a party-line 2-3 vote.
House Passes Bill Allowing Time-Off For Parents to Attend School Functions
HB16-1002 by Rep. Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) passed the House on February 11 with a vote of 35-30. The bill, which is a modified version from 2009 legislation, would allow certain employees to take a leave from work to attend their child’s academic activities. Activities include teacher-parent conferences, meeting related to interventions, dropout prevention, attendance, truancy, or discipline issues, and meetings with school counselors. While there was discord among Republicans and Democrats about the bill, concerns mostly related to business regulations, not education policies. The bill is headed to the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear SB16-047 by Sen. Laura Woods (D-Arvada) on February 17. The bill would prohibit a juvenile detention facility from receiving or providing care for a juvenile who violates a court order to attend school.
On February 17, SB16-104 by Sen. Nancy Todd will be heard before the Senate Education Committee. The bill would create methods to address the issue of recruitment and retention of teachers in Colorado’s rural school districts. Methods include:
- Establishing a rural education center in colleges located in rural districts;
- Providing stipends to offset tuition costs for student teachers who are in approved educator preparation programs and will student teach in a rural district;
- Establish a teacher cadet program in rural districts to identify and support high school students interested in teaching; and
- Provide funds for a teacher in a rural district who will pursue National Board Certification.
On February 18, SB16-105 by Sen. Michael Merrifield will be discussed in the Senate Education Committee. Currently, 50% of teacher and administrator evaluations must be based on a student’s academic growth. SB 105 would adjust the requirement, so that academic growth is no more than 20% of the evaluation.