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K–12 Legislative Narrative
March 3–7, 2014
With 43 weekdays remaining in the 2014 legislative session, the general assembly is focused on key budget decisions and school finance issues. On Monday, March 3, the House Education Committee heard testimony on the School Finance Act and Student Success Act. Voting and amendments will occur after the state revenue forecast that is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18. Discussions between legislators and school districts have been ongoing. 35 Representatives have signed onto the Student Success Act and one Senator has signed on to sponsor the bill, Senator Michael Johnston (D, Aurora).
Also at the capitol on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony, but did not vote on, HB14-1110. The bill would require the recording of executive sessions held by school boards and school district attorneys. The Colorado Association of School Boards and Colorado Bar Association both testified in opposition to the bill and stated they are working on an amendment with bill sponsor Senator Mary Hodge (D, Adams County).
A large number of education bills have sat on the calendar awaiting hearings by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The March 18 revenue forecast will also signal the beginning of moving these measures through committee. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn Wednesday, May 7.
Donnell Kay Colorado’s “New, Relevant and Radically Different” Education Reform Agenda to “Overhaul the Public Education System”
Last Thursday the Donnell Kay Foundation officially released their “game changing, multi-year effort to create a new state public education system”. According to the Donnell Kay Colorado website, this proposal is intended to address the “staggering statistics” that illustrate the “hundreds of thousands of Colorado children fall[ing] through the cracks”.
View Donnell Kay’s comprehensive public school reform agenda, reSchool Colorado, at:
School Finance Fiscal Year 2014–2015
- HB14-1292 (Sen. Johnston/Reps. Hamner and Murray) Student Success Act
- HB14-1298 (Sens. Kerr and Steadman/Reps. Buckner and Hamner) School Finance Act
On Monday, March 3, the House Education Committee heard testimony on HB14-1292 and HB14-1298 and laid both measures over for amendments and voting at a future meeting. Over 50 individuals gave testimony for approximately six hours on the Student Success Act, Representatives Millie Hamner’s (D, Summit County) and Carole Murray’s (R, Douglas County) bill unofficially called the ‘Son of 213’. The Student Success Act makes a variety of changes to school finance and education programs similar to what was contained in last year’s SB13-213 Future School Finance Act, also sponsored by Senator Michael Johnston (D, Aurora) and Representative Hamner. Sponsors of this year’s measure are committed to working with stakeholders to get the bill ‘just right’ in the weeks leading up to the state revenue forecast, scheduled for Tuesday, March 18. The revenue forecast will provide exact state revenue dollar estimates for fiscal year 2014–2015.
HB14-1298, the ‘traditional’ School Finance Act, was heard quickly and contains a relatively small number of differences when compared to acts in recent years. The 2014–2015 School Finance Act sets the statewide base per-pupil funding amount at $6,121, adjusting for a 2.8 percent inflation rate increase. The bill also adjusts the calculations for the cost of living factor, establishes the amount of the negative factor for fiscal year 2014–2015, provides 5,000 additional pre-school and full-day kindergarten slots, and provides $2 million in additional state funding to the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).
A majority of the testimony given by K–12 education stakeholders on HB14-1292 was in opposition, stressing the need for the legislature to restore the $1 billion ‘negative factor’ and detailing the strain on schools caused by attaching strings to any new K–12 dollars. Rural, urban, suburban, and mountain school district officials, school board members, teachers, and students outlined the difficulties schools are having with implementing a variety of recent reform measures and absorbing the $1 billion negative factor. Many stated that any new reforms, such as the programs included in the current version of the bill, would simply not be possible to implement. Cherry Creek School District and Littleton Public Schools testified against the measure.
Support for the Student Success Act came only from groups representing business and reform-minded agendas, including Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The South Metro Chamber opposed the bill, deeming it too bureaucratic and burdensome for schools.
The main components of the introduced version of the HB14-1292 Student Success Act include:
1. $100 million in recurring total program funds intended to restore the negative factor.
2. $20 million in recurring funding for early literacy.
3. $35 million in recurring funding for English Language Literacy programs.
4. $40 million in one-time funding, allocated on a per-pupil basis, for the implementation of reform measures, including accountability, early literacy, educator evaluation statutes, and other similar programs.
5. $15 million in one-time funding to establish and implement a ‘school site’ level of financial reporting and an average daily membership student count system.
6. $40 million for capital construction and infrastructure, including full-day kindergarten, technology assistance, and charter school facilities assistance.
7. $13 million annually for charter school capital construction, boosting the current fund from $7 million to a total of $20 million annually.
Joint Budget Committee (JBC) Department of Education Fiscal Year 2014–2015 Figure Setting
On Thursday, March 6, the JBC conducted figure setting hearings for the Department of Education for fiscal year 2014-2015. The majority of the hearing was routine in comparison to prior years with the committee passing staff recommendations with little to no discussion or modifications. New requests included two FTEs at CDE, one for the Office of Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement to implement and facilitate ICAPs, Continuing Education programs, CTE programs, and the other for the Office of Choice and Innovation to assist with Innovation Schools programs.
The JBC will hear ‘come-backs’ to the CDE budget on Monday, March 17, and finalize the department budget for the fiscal year 2014–2015 state budget, known as the Long Bill, at that time.
SB 191 Implementation Extension Bill
On Thursday, March 6, Senator Michael Johnston (D, Aurora) announced his plans to introduce a measure that will extend some implementation deadlines set by SB10-191, the state’s educator effectiveness law. The bill draft is also sponsored by Senator Andy Kerr (D, Lakewood) and Representative Millie Hamner (D, Summit County). Under current law, the full educator evaluation system is scheduled for complete implementation in the 2014–2015 school year. The system requires that principals, teachers, and special service providers are evaluated every year, 50 percent based on professional practice and the other 50 percent based on student academic growth measures. Districts are currently implementing these requirements in a ‘practice year’, meaning that the clock to remove non-probationary status for teachers rated ‘ineffective’ or ‘partially effective’ for two consecutive years has not begun.
Senator Johnston’s new bill would allow districts the option to determine whether they want to utilize student growth measures in 2014–2015. If student growth measures are utilized, districts will have the ability to decide whether they use PARCC assessment data or continue to use local measures. In the 2015–2016 school year, districts would still be required to utilize both quality standards and student growth measures (both local measures and PARCC) for full educator evaluations.
Uncertainty around other reform deadlines, as well as the validity of the PARCC assessments and accreditation requirements, have sparked feedback from districts requesting that the full 191 requirements be delayed until 2016–2017. Senator Johnston’s measure has not yet been officially introduced.
TABOR Lawsuit Update
Outside the statehouse, a lawsuit claiming the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) violates federal constitutional guarantees of representative state government was handed a ‘win’ by the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. The lawsuit, Kerr v. Hickenlooper, was filed in 2011 and could be extremely important in the school funding debate if the plaintiffs are victorious. TABOR, passed in 1992, requires voter approval for tax increases in Colorado. Plaintiffs in the suit claim TABOR violates provisions of the US Constitution and Colorado law, which guarantee a ‘republican’ form of state government. Plaintiffs argue that elected representatives should be able to make legislative decisions, including taxation, without voter approval. There are 32 plaintiffs in the case, including current Senator Andy Kerr (D, Lakewood), former Republican legislator Norma Anderson, and current State Board of Education member Elaine Gantz Berman (D, Denver). Friday’s ruling answered two limited questions: 1) whether the plaintiffs have the legal standing to file such a suit; and 2) whether the case is a ‘political’ issue that cannot be decided in the judicial system. The ruling last week found the plaintiffs do have legal standing to file suit and that the case is not a political issue that cannot be decided by the court. The final ruling in this suit is likely still years away.
Upcoming Hearing Schedule
- Monday, March 10
o Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs, 1:30 p.m., SCR353
§ SB14-139 (Sen. Scheffel) Enhance Charter School Capital Construction Financing
- Tuesday, March 11
o State Board of Education, 9:00 a.m., CDE
§ Legislative Update
§ WestEd Assessment Implementation Study Update
§ Accountability System Review Committee – Committee Applicant Review
- Wednesday, March 12
o House Education, Upon Adjournment, HCR0112
§ HB14-1294 (Rep. Murray) Student Data Privacy Act
o Senate Education, Upon Adjournment, SCR356
§ HB14-1182 (Sen. Kerr) Public Education Accountability 2015–2016 School Year
o Senate Judiciary, 1:30 p.m., SCR252
§ HB14-1110 (Sen. Hodge) School Boards and Executive Session
(FOR ACTION ONLY)
- Thursday, March6
o Senate Education, 1:30 p.m., SCR356
§ SB14-150 (Sens. Todd and Zenzinger) School Counselor Corps Grant Program
o House Health, Insurance, and Environment, 1:30 p.m., Old Supreme Court Chambers
§ HB14-1288 (Rep. Pabon) Student Immunizations Prior To School Attendance