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Senate approves charter cooperation bill

Despite a last-ditch effort by Sen. Evie Hudak, the Senate Tuesday voted 30-5 to pass Senate Bill 10-161, which would allow charter schools to formally collaborate with each other and apply for many competitive state and federal grants.

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Hudak, a Westminster Democrat, has opposed the bill because, in most cases, it would allow charters to form so-called collaboratives without the approval of their authorizers, either school boards or the state Charter School Institute.

She argued that the bill might even be an “unconstitutional” infringement on the rights of school boards, an argument scoffed at by Republicans, including Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, prime sponsor of SB 10-161 and a charter school administrator.

Tuesday Hudak proposed an amendment to the bill that would have required authorizer approval of collaboratives. That died on a 10-25 vote, with more Democrats voting against the amendment than for it.

The bill would allow two or more charters to form separate entities to provide various services. King frequently has used the simple example of snow removal, but the range of possible services offered could be broader. Special education is one service that many charters are seeking to provide in different ways. The provision allowing collaboratives to apply for competitive state and federal grants has raised opposition from some school interests who fear it would set up district-charter competition for grants.

The measure now goes to the House.

SB 10-161 is opposed by lobbyists representing some school administrator groups and by the Colorado Education Association. It’s supported by the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

Three other charter bills concerning operational quality standards for charters and authorizers, procedures for charter applications and appeals and emergency takeovers of troubled charters are scheduled to be heard by the House Education Committee Thursday afternoon.

See this Senate Journal for the amendments to SB 10-161 (pages 903-905)

In other action

The Senate Tuesday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 10-1035, which would streamline the application process for various early-childhood services, and House Bill 10-1335, which would allow boards of cooperative education services to operate school food services. The bill also would establish a gift-funded grant program for which BOCES could apply. Recipients of the grants would have to meet various requirements for providing health foods in their programs.

Senators also gave a preliminary OK to Senate Bill 10-064, which would ease the application process for students to claim eligibility for College Opportunity Fund stipends. The bill basically would allow students to check a box on their applications for state colleges, rather than fill out separate paperwork or online forms.

The Senate adopted a conference committee report and re-passed House Bill 10-1171, which eliminates some school district data reporting requirements, including annual district budget reports that the Colorado Education Association wanted to keep in force.

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