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House passes CSAP cutback bill 47-16

Updated noon May 6 – Without further debate, the House voted 47-16 Thursday to pass House Bill 10-1430, the bill that would eliminate CSAP testing in high school starting next year and also abolish the statewide writing tests, instead letting districts conduct their own writing tests.

All House Democrats supported the bill, and 16 Republicans voted no.

The preliminary debate on Wednesday turned into something of a CSAP-bashing session by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, has been unsuccessfully pushing these kinds of bills for several sessions. “We’ve been testing more than we actually need to,” she argued, referring to federal requirements.

She wants a system of three postsecondary and workforce readiness tests given in the 9th, 10th and 11th grades. Although the bill doesn’t mention specific tests, many assume that they would be the three tests marketed by the ACT testing firm.

“This bill allows us to make something relevant happen at the high school level,” Solano saidWednesday.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said CSAPs “have not improved student achievement. … Every year we move from one fad to another in education. … Let’s put all our efforts behind this and [then] start kicking the old fads off the books.”

Only Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, and a handful of other Republicans rose to speak against the bill. “Why we are trying to hurry up a very orderly process is something I can’t understand.”

The Colorado Department of Education has strenuously objected to the bill, saying it would require federal approval of a change in the state testing system, would be disruptive to the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids process and to CDE data management and would create unnecessary costs.

Several speakers criticized CDE for going slow on changing the state testing system.

“If CDE needs to speed up a little bit, that’s what we need them to do,” Solano said.

Nobody but Murray alluded to the fact that the department has been scrupulously following the deadlines lawmakers set in the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids.

And nobody mentioned that the House recently passed House Bill 10-1013, which would extend CAP4K deadlines to adopt new testing systems because of lack of funding. (The Senate Education Committee Wednesday unanimously approved that bill.)

Deadlines that would be extended include:

  • Instead of Dec. 15, the State Board of Education would have to choose a new state testing system “as soon as fiscally practicable.”
  • A cost study on testing wouldn’t be due until Oct. 1, 2011.
  • School districts would have two years after adoption to start using new tests.
  • The board won’t have to adopt high school graduation guidelines until Dec. 15, 2011.
  • New district graduations requirements would apply to students entering 9th grade in the fall of 2012.

There was a loud chorus of “ayes” on the voice vote and only scattered “nays.”

The House has passed Solano CSAP bills in the past, but she’s had less luck in the Senate. That may well be the case again this year.

AFT swings behind teacher bill

The American Federation of Teachers-Colorado announced it’s supporting Senate Bill 10-191, the educator evaluation and tenure proposal that’s bitterly opposed by the state’s larger teachers union, the Colorado Education Association.

Appearing at a news conference with bill sponsors, AFT President Brenda Smith said, “AFT-Colorado extremely supports this bill.” Sponsors will introduce amendments at a House Education Committee hearing Thursday on mutual consent for placement and layoffs, amendments AFT wanted. (Smith had said in public testimony on April 22 that AFT was leaning toward the bill.) AFT primarily represents teachers in Douglas County and is much smaller than CEA.

Christine Scanlan / File photo
Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon

House prime sponsor Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, said she’s confident the bill will pass out of the House education and appropriations committees and make it to the House floor.

CEA spokeswoman Deb Fallin, noting the different sizes of the unions and AFT’s Dougco home, said the union’s position remains unchanged. The amendments “may address particular concerns in Douglas County. They do not come anywhere close to addressing the concerns of the state and the school districts of the state.”

The union objects to provisions of the bill that would allow non-probationary teachers be returned to probation if they receive unsatisfactory evaluations, has concerns about appeal procedures, think the bill is an unfunded mandate and that it would be too quick a change, despite the bill’s proposed five-year roll out.

The House Education Committee has a big double feature Thursday afternoon. Not only will it debate SB 10-191, but it’s also scheduled to consider Senate Bill 10-003, the tuition flexibility bill that passed the Senate Wednesday.

Romer backup plan goes nowhere

The Senate Education Committee voted 7-0 to lay over Senate Bill 10-215 until May 13 – the day after the 2010 session must adjourn.

The measure, introduced only Tuesday by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, would have required the Colorado Lottery to rapidly expand its offerings, securitize (sell off) the future proceeds of new games and have the state use the money for scholarships.

It was a backup plan to Romer’s proposed House Concurrent Resolution 10-004, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow expanded video gambling and also use the proceeds for scholarships. That resolution hasn’t been formally killed but isn’t going anywhere.

Romer has argued strenuously that the 2010 legislature must do something now to soften higher ed cuts of up to $300 million in 2011-12. He believes waiting until the 2011 session will be too late. “This is going to be the mother of all fights next year,” Romer warned.

He said he accepted his defeat “until I figure out tonight another way to do this.”

Romer also said, “I hope Gov. Ritter will look at a special session” later this year to consider state finances.

The full House Wednesday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 10-1428, which would bolster state financial aid budgets by at least $15 million. The money would come from the planned sale of a student loan portfolio owned by CollegeInvest.

For the record

In spare moments over the last couple of days lawmakers also acted on assorted other education measures.

The House agreed to Senate amendments on House Bill 10-1273, Rep. Mike Merrifield’s arts education bill. The amended bill encourages school districts to include arts in curricula and instructs the state board to include the arts in the upcoming high school graduation guidelines.

The House also agreed to amendments and re-passed House Bill 10-1335, which allows boards of cooperative education services to offer food service and establishes a voluntary grant program for such efforts.

Both houses have accepted a conference committee report on House Bill 10-1383, which takes money from a College Invest scholarship fund and transfers it to the general fund and to state financial aid.

The Senate Education Committee Thursday passed:

  • Senate Bill 10-210, which would take up to $1 million for grants to agencies that operate Promise Neighborhoods or Choice Neighborhoods programs. They could use the money for cash incentives to first-to-fifth graders who reads books.
  • House Bill 10-1274, which requires notification to school districts when students return after being in treatment facilities. (This bill has had a long odyssey, but all the parties involved have finally agreed to it.)
  • Senate Bill 10-202, which would allow adults to open 529 accounts with CollegeInvest for job retraining and allow employers to contribute to employee accounts.

And, Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday signed House Bill 10-1208, the measure designed to expand the number of community courses that are transferrable to four-year schools.

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

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