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House passes two district mandates

Update 10:30 a.m. March 8 – The House Monday voted 48-14 to give final approval to the arts requirement bill and voted 39-23 for the immunization notification measure. The school awards measure, Senate Bill 10-018, passed 61-1. Details on the bills are in the Friday story below.

The House Friday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 10-1273, Rep. Mike Merrifield’s proposal to establish an arts requirement for graduation from high school.

A retired music teacher, Merrifield is chair of the House Education Committee and is serving in his last session because of term limits.

The bill has been opposed by school districts, which are trying to stand firm against new state mandates during this time of budget cuts.

Merrifield has successful proposed amendments that give districts a lot of choice in how the requirement can be met and to delay implementation of the law for a year.

“I think the jury no longer is out on the value of the arts,” Merrifield said, citing studies on improved achievement and school participation by students who receive arts education.

The banner of local control was carried by Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock. “It is with a great deal of regret that I oppose this bill. I’m a very artsy person.” But, she added, “At this time when our schools are on their knees just trying to keep their math teachers, their English teachers [this is] another unfunded mandate by the legislature.”

The bill passed on a voice vote, as did Senate Bill 10-056, which require school districts to provide a standardized state immunization information form to all parents. The form could be sent home with students, included in school handbooks, e-mailed or sent by any method a district chose.

Districts have opposed this measure because they believe it unavoidably will increase costs. Supporters argue that it could save money because the standardized forms, after being filled out by parents, could just be filed, saving some transcription time for district and school staff.

In the committees

The House State Affairs Committee Thursday voted 7-4 to pass House Bill 10-1272, which would impose limits on contributions to school board candidates (and on candidates for the RTD board).

The limit would be $2,500 per election for individuals and political committees and $5,000 per election for small donor committees, frequently used by teachers unions. An amendment that would have raised the small donor limit to $10,000 died on a 5-5 vote.

The bill also would change reporting requirements for school board races.

Most school board races are low-budget affairs, but huge contributions in Denver and Douglas County races drew attention to the issue.

Sponsor Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, said she may prepare amendments that would ease reporting requirements for small districts, where candidate campaign war chests usually are tiny.

At the request of sponsor Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, the House Education Committee Thursday killed House Bill 10-1253, which would have updated and reorganized state laws on gifted children. Peniston indicated that cost and policy issues made it too difficult to pass the bill this year.

For the record

Here’s an update on the progress of various other education bills Thursday and Friday:

  • Senate Bill 10-018 – Grant-funded school awards program, House preliminary approval. (Merrifield Friday promised to donate the first $1,000.)
  • Senate Bill 10-026 – Data exchange between Department of Education and College In Colorado, Senate final approval
  • Senate Bill 10-108 – Allowing private and propriety colleges to participate in the higher education core courses system, passed Senate Appropriations
  • House Bill 10-1064 – Mandated appeals process in student athlete eligibility disputes, passed Senate Education
  • House Bill 10-1030 – Scholarships for ECE teachers, passed Senate Education
  • House Bill 10-1044 – Licensing of neighborhood youth organizations, passed Senate Education
  • Senate Bill 10-081 – Creation of farm to school task force, passed House Education

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

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