The 2nd Regular Session of the 71st General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, January 10th with the typical fanfare and back-to-work speeches from leaders in both the Senate and House. Along with healthcare and transportation, the topics of education funding and workforce development cropped up frequently.
Speaker of the House, Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), highlighted the need to prioritize transportation funding without continuing to neglect our underfunded K-12 school system. Speaker Duran also called out the “race- and income-related disparities that continue to exist in Colorado’s schools” and the importance of addressing these inequities in the 2018 session.
Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City) began his speech by encouraging bipartisanship and denouncing the divisiveness in today’s political climate. He then went on to express the importance of investing in our roads and highways before calling for a commitment to comprehensive reform of PERA, the state’s retirement system, so that it “provides our state employees with the benefits they were promised, and deserve, while ensuring that future generations don’t have to foot the bill.”
In his final State of the State, Governor Hickenlooper called attention to on-going conflict between our state constitution and the ability to fully fund the K-12 system and the re-visioning of the Education Leadership Council. The Governor also reminded his audience that improving our education system and workforce will require more than increased funding – “we need to rethink and retool our approach” by expanding skills-based training and apprenticeship opportunities, such as introducing more students to coding.
So far, 140 bills have posted and we’re already reviewing more than 14 bills that relate directly to education. Chalkbeat Colorado has a rundown of this session's first education bills. We anticipate this session will see a higher-than-usual volume of bills, many with an uncertain path as we sort through election-year politics.
Senator Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood) proposed a bill that, with voter permission, would allow the state to put additional money from state-collected revenue towards education. However, this bill was sent straight to a kill committee by Republicans on Wednesday. We have already seen and will continue to see bills related to the teacher shortage, assessments, and career-tech and concurrent enrollment.
The House Education Committee meeting will meet Monday afternoons and the Senate Education Committee will meet Thursday afternoons. Both committees will meet Wednesday mornings.
Senate President: Kevin Grantham (R) Senate Majority Leader: Chris Holbert (R) Speaker of the House: Crisanta Duran (D) House Minority Leader: Patrick Neville (R)