Here’s a look at the first education bills to hit the floor in Colorado

Some make tweaks to existing laws and policies, some tackle long-standing deficiencies, and some are message bills doomed to die an early death.
5 min. read
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Scenes from the seat of government. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

By Erica MeltzerChalkbeat

These are some of the education and child care-related bills that caught our eye on the first day of the Colorado General Assembly’s 2018 session.

Some make tweaks to existing laws and policies, some tackle long-standing deficiencies, and some are message bills doomed to die an early death. The bills are loosely organized based on a non-scientific assessment of how interesting they are. Bills with bipartisan support and support from legislative leadership are closer to the top.

HB18-1002 Rural School District Teaching Fellowship Programs

This bill from state Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, and state Rep. Millie Hamner, a Dillon Democrat, would create a fellowship program with a $10,000 stipend to lure students in their last year of a teaching program to rural school districts. The state would pay half the cost for 100 teaching fellows each year, and districts and institutions of higher learning would also contribute. Fellows who were offered full-time employment and turned it down would have to pay back the money. To qualify, districts need to have a history of being unable to fill teaching positions, among other criteria. These lawmakers from rural districts, who both serve on the Joint Budget Committee, have a history of teaming up on education issues with mixed success.

SB18-011 Students Excused from Taking State Assessments

This bill with bipartisan sponsorship would prevent districts from issuing consequences to students whose parents excuse them from state assessments. State law already bars punishment for not taking the tests, but this bill defines what that means. Students couldn’t be barred from activities or prevented from receiving awards.

HB18-1070 Additional Public School Capital Construction Funding

This bill from state Rep. Cole Wist, a Centennial Republican, and Rep. Dave Young, a Greeley Democrat, would increase the amount of money available under the Building Excellent Schools Today Act through two mechanisms. It would increase the annual lease payments allowed for under lease-purchases agreements authorized by that bill, and it would dedicate more retail marijuana tax money to school construction.

HB18-1004 Continue Child Care Contribution Tax Credit

This bill with bipartisan sponsorship takes an existing tax credit for people who donate to child care providers and extends it for five years past its expiration in 2020. 

SB18-013 Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act

This bill with bipartisan sponsorship would expand an existing state subsidy that lets kids who would otherwise pay for a reduced-price lunch get the lunch for free. The program currently covers children in preschool through fifth grade. This bill would provide between $500,000 and $750,000 a year to subsidize free lunches for kids in grades six through eight.

SB18-012 Military Enlistment School Performance Indicator

This bill from state Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican, and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, would make enlistment in the military within one year of high school graduation an indicator of school performance, with equal weight to enrollment in college. Hill and Pettersen chair the education committees in their respective chambers.

HB18-1005 Notice to Students of Postsecondary Courses

Current law already requires school districts and charter schools to tell parents and students about opportunities for concurrent enrollment in postsecondary courses. This bill from state Rep. Jon Becker, a Fort Morgan Republican, and state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, would require that notice to include information about the benefits of taking college or technical school classes while still in high school and timelines that could affect enrollment decisions.

SB18-008 Reward Access to Arts Education in Public Schools

This bill from state Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat, would add a performance indicator to reward schools for the degree to which they provide access to arts education, including dance, music, theater and visual arts. It has bipartisan sponsorship.

SB18-004 Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten

This bill with a single Democratic sponsor, state Sen. Andy Kerr, went straight to a kill committee, but it might not be the only effort this session to finally find the money for this long-standing deficiency. This bill would refer a measure to the voters asking them to authorize spending above the cap imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Previous efforts to get taxpayers to pay more statewide have not been successful.

HB18-1019 Kindergarten Through 12th Grade Accreditation Weighted Factors

This bill from state Rep. Mike Foote, a Lafayette Democrat, would require the state board of education to create a weighted accreditation system that gives more credit for graduation rates to high schools with more rigorous curriculum.

HB18-1037 Concealed Handguns on School Grounds

This Republican-sponsored bill would allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring their firearms on school grounds. It went straight to a kill committee in the Democratic-controlled House.

HB18-1014 Social Studies Assessment in High Schools

This bill from state Rep. Perry Buck, a Windsor Republican, would get rid of the requirement to do a social studies assessment for high school students.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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