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Ritter: Teacher bill “capstone” of reform

Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday praised legislative passage of Senate Bill 10-191, the educator evaluation and tenure bill, saying it was one of the measures that “made our mark nationally” this year.

Gov. Bill Ritter talked about the 2010 legislative session during a May 13, 2010, news conference.
Gov. Bill Ritter talked about the 2010 legislative session during a May 13, 2010, news conference.

“Other states are looking at this,” Ritter said at a post-session news conference. “States around the country ultimately will go the direction we took with SB 191.”

The governor said the bill was “such a significant reform that built on a lot of other things we’ve done.” He called it the “capstone” of “major education reforms” enacted during the last four legislative sessions, including the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids.

Asked about the fact that all the reforms have long implementation schedules, Ritter said, “I don’t think we’re going to lose steam.” (He isn’t running for a second term.)

“This is a difficult conversation, but at the end of the day you can’t back off on education to reform. … “Our national ability to compete is at risk.”

Asked about the potential for residual bad feelings between the Colorado Education Association and reform-minded Democrats, Ritter said, “I’m hopeful things will be repaired, but it will take time.”

He also cautioned that “we have to be careful” not to magnify the importance of tensions during two or three days when the bill was being debated in the House.

“The bill is a much better bill … than it was at the start,” Ritter said, noting the extensive amendments made in both the Senate and house.

“The CEA got to neutral. That was very helpful.”

But, Ritter didn’t seem overly concerned about the SB 10-191 battle. “You have to make difficult decisions.”

He also said there were reasons for late introduction of the bill, something that was criticized by some opponents.

“We began with an executive order. Part of that was determined by Race to the Top,” he said. He was referring to his January decision to create the Council on Educator Effectiveness just before the state filed its first (and ultimately unsuccessful) bid for R2T funds.

He said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, introduced the bill late in the session (on April 12, a month before the session’s end) because “they wanted to see what happened in Race to the Top.”

And, Ritter said, the timing strategy for the 2010 session was to get Public Employees’ Retirement Association and energy legislation finished first. “Teacher tenure … came after those other big things, and that frankly helped with the other issues.”

The governor said he also was satisfied with the higher education flexibility legislation, Senate Bill 10-003. He called it “a decision point about what use we make of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.” The bill gives CCHE the power over the next five years to decide whether colleges and universities can raise tuition higher than 9 percent.

The bill had adequate “sideboards” to protect students said Ritter, who long has been an advocate for college affordability.

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