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Immunization notice bill advances

Concerns about school district costs apparently cut no ice with the Senate Human Services Committee Wednesday, which passed an immunization notification bill opposed by the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Also Wednesday, Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, announced she will withdraw her controversial Native American mascot bill.

The immunization measure, Senate Bill 10-056, would require all school districts to provide parents with a standard notification about both required and recommended immunizations. The standard form would be developed by the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

The bill is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, and an influential voice on health issues. The original bill would have required districts to provide parents with e-mail or hard-copy versions of the notification.

At Boyd’s suggestion, the committee amended the bill to give districts more flexibility in how they distribute the information. However, the bill specifies that merely posting the notification on a district website is not sufficient.

Bruce Caughey, lobbyist for CASE, thanked Boyd for her flexibility but said his group still opposes the bill “at a time when we’re being very careful about our bottom line.” (School districts are facing a cut of more than 2 percent in state aid in this school year and likely reductions of 6 percent or more in 2010-11.)

Both Caughey and Julie George, lobbyist for CASB, said they were uncomfortable with districts being required to list recommended vaccines as well as required ones. “We feel having the goal of a standardized from … is a laudable goal,” George said. “But we don’t believe school districts are the appropriate entity” to distribute information about recommended shots. Caughey said that would amount to “marketing” for drug companies.

And, George said, “CASB will oppose all legislation … that will bring a cost to districts. This may not seem like an onerous burden, [but] it will bring costs with it.”

Boyd said, “I understand that any kind of change is going to get opposition.” But, she noted, school districts distribute health information now. “I can’t believe that this is so onerous that it’s going to be a real problem for school districts.”

A fiscal note prepared by legislative staff concluded the bill wouldn’t cost the state anything, adding, “The fiscal note assumes that the standard form will be distributed either within existing student mailings or via e-mail and will not result in additional expenditures” for districts. (The legislative fiscal staff traditionally doesn’t examine potential local costs in any depth and sometimes doesn’t even consider local government issues.)

The committee also heard from four witnesses who supported parent choice about immunizations. Some complained that school officials sometimes don’t tell parents that they have the legal right to not have their children immunized.

The panel approved an amendment that would require the immunization notification form include information about parent choice. (State law only requires parents to file an immunization record with a school. That record can note immunizations that parents chose not to have administered.)

The committee sent the bill to the Senate floor on a 5-1 vote.

Native American mascot bill to be shelved

Senate Bill 10-107, the controversial Native American mascot bill, is being killed by its sponsor.

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, said, “I introduced this bill because I feel very strongly that we need a conversation about the subtle discrimination between races and cultures, but as this discussion has developed I no longer feel that legislation is necessary to reach the goal of bringing this discussion into public awareness. I want to continue the conversation over the summer working with the Colorado Indian Education Foundation to meet with school districts. I fervently believe we can build on our knowledge and expand our appreciation of our Native American ancestors.”

The bill would have required high schools with Native American mascot names to get approval from the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs to continue use of those names.

Senate Ed likes Munn

The Senate Education Committee voted 8-0 Wednesday to recommend confirmation of Rico Munn as director of the Department of Higher Education. Munn, who had headed the Department of Regulatory Agencies, was nominated last fall by Gov. Bill Ritter after David Skaggs resigned.

The appointment is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.

Munn’s primary focus during this last year of the Ritter administration is steering the department’s strategic planning process.

For the record

• Introduced Wednesday was House Bill 10-1254, which would require “a score at the proficient achievement level or higher on the 10th-grade statewide assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics; or (2) a score on a postsecondary and workforce readiness assessment indicating that the student has attained postsecondary and workforce readiness” for a student to graduate from high school. Sponsors are Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.

• Also introduced Wednesday was House Bill 10-1253, which “distinguishes, where necessary, the education of gifted children from that of children with disabilities in the ‘Exceptional Children’s Educational Act.’ The state board of education is required to appoint a gifted education advisory committee to assist with issues related to gifted education services and programs.” Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, are prime sponsors.

• The House Finance Committee Wednesday passed House Bill 10-1040, which would allow adults to have 529 “lifelong learning” accounts with CollegeInvest. The bill would allow employers to contribute to employee accounts.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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