Happy New Year and welcome back to our weekly legislative update newsletter, Capitol Week in Review. This week the second session of the 72nd General Assembly kicked off and Governor Jared Polis gave his second State of the State address. We have updates on all of this and more below!
Governor Polis Highlights Full-Day Kindergarten, Calls for Investments in Preschool in State of the State
Governor Polis gave his second State of the State address last week. Education took a prominent role in his speech as he highlighted achievements from last year, including the passage of free, full-day kindergarten, called on legislators to address school finance, and talked about increasing access to preschool. In fact, he said "I’m committed to achieving universal access to quality preschool for 4-year-olds by the end of my first term." This is a top priority for us at Stand for Children. If you are interested in showing your support sign up here.
Legislative Session Kicks off With Pomp and Speeches
Amidst the typical back-to-school vibes of the first day of session, opening day speeches included rundowns of the accomplishments of last session and laid out ambitious agendas for the session ahead. Reference to political skirmishes were mixed in with hopes for bipartisanship in the coming months. Here are some highlights of education-related remarks:
House Speaker KC Becker (D - Boulder):
“We paid down the budget stabilization factor by $100 million, boosting investment in our classrooms. We passed a budget that included $20 million for rural schools and $22 million for special education programs. And just in case you’ve never heard Governor Polis speak, I’ll have you know we also expanded full-day kindergarten to every school district in our state.”
“How we prioritize within our budget is of vital importance. We need to ensure that all of our dollars are being used in service to key goals. While we’ve made substantial investments in K-12 education funding by paying down the budget stabilization factor, we’ll remain focused on ways to bring it down even further and will continue working on longer term school funding solutions.”
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R – Castle Rock):
“The vast majority of our caucus has signed up for education bills this year with a twist: to give parents and their students more choice, to prioritize spending and make better choices for our children. To put students and their families first. These are the values Coloradans support because they know our children will benefit. Providing more education choice for students and their parents and guardians, and having better spending priorities will not only benefit students, but also our freedom and our democratic process. The ignorant are easily misled. We rely on an educated people, a genuinely educated people.”
Senate President LeRoy Garcia (D – Pueblo):
“We need to defend our residents from these injustices and ensure that they are afforded the protections every Coloradan deserves. This means opportunity for affordable higher education, stable housing, and paid family leave. It also means access to quality teachers, job training, and a streamlined transportation system. Because the American Dream shouldn't require a VIP ticket. But rather, only be limited by a person's willingness to work hard and persist in hope. So today, let us renew our commitment to the People of Colorado. Let us honor the voice they spoke with when they put us at the helm.”
Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R- Parker):
"Still, Republicans share the desire to pay teachers more, especially those teachers who excel at teaching. Putting more toward buying down of the budget stabilization factor would allow local school districts to increase teacher salaries within their respective 9 jurisdictions. We didn't tell those local school boards how to cut their budgets during the Great Recession and we ought to avoid telling them how to increase their budgets during a booming economy.”
House and Senate Education Committee Membership Named
Education committee membership in the House and Senate was set for now. It’s normal to have some shuffling of legislators early in the process so we’ll update you if these change.
House Education Committee: Representatives Barbara McLachlan, Chair; Bri Buentello, Vice-Chair; Mark Baisley, Perry Buck, Janet Buckner, James Coleman, Lisa Cutter, Tony Exum, Sr., Tim Geitner, Colin Larson, Julie McCluskie, Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Jim Wilson
Senate Education Committee: Senators Nancy Todd, Chair; Tammy Story, Vice Chair; Jeff Bridges; Owen Hill; Paul Lundeen
Over 30 Education Bills Introduced
Finally, we are beginning to review all of the bills that have been introduced so far. More than 160 bills have been introduced and assigned to their first committee, and of these at least 30 are K-12 or early childhood related. Chalkbeat has a great rundown of some key bills. We will have our full update on education bills in next week's edition!