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Ritter inks top education bills

In what amounted to a graduation ceremony for education bills, Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday signed nine of the more important pieces of school legislation passed by the 2009 legislature.

Now part of state law are:

Education Accountability Act of 2009 (Senate Bill 09-163)
Educator Identifier System (Senate Bill 09-1065)
Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act (House Bill 09-1319)
Dropout Prevention and Student Re-engagement (House Bill 09-1243)
Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education (Senate Bill 09-090)
Alternative Teacher Licensing (Senate Bill 09-160)
School Finance Act for 2009-10 (Senate Bill 09-256)
DPS-PERA Pension Merger (Senate Bill 09-282)
Healthy Choices Dropout Prevention Pilot Program (Senate Bill 09-123)

The ceremony, at the Denver Public Schools’ Career Education Center in west Denver, drew top education officials and legislators, with the bills characterized as a “comprehensive education reform package.”

“The power of this package is that it’s extending opportunities,” said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien.

However, being the products of a penny-pinching session, four of the measures carry no state funding and are to be paid for with “gifts, grants and donations.” And, other of the major bills will require years of implementation to have significant effects.

An enthusiastic and largely attentive audience of more than 200 students witnessed the signings, and Ritter focused on them in his opening remarks.

“In America education is the way people can change their status in life. Education can be everything to your future … this is about you and about your children.”

The crowd also was packed legislators, elected officials, education lobbyists, association executives and others. O’Brien and education Commissioner Dwight Jones spoke, and state Treasurer Cary Kennedy was in the audience.

The smoothly organized event was full of the mutual back patting, recognition by name and other compliments called for by political protocol and tradition. As he prepared to sign each bill, different groups of legislators and others stood behind Ritter. Camera strobes flashed, and the governor handed ceremonial pens to various individuals.

Ritter now has signed 58 of the 72 education and budget bills on the 2009 EdNews’ Bill Tracker.

Bills of interest still awaiting his decision include House Bill 09-1057, parent leave from work for school conferences; House Bill 09-1312, “green” loans for schools, and Senate Bill 09-291, reducing state aid for school districts that re-impose local tax caps.