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No-felons bill revived for 2011

A bill introduced in the House on Friday would require school districts to fire non-licensed employees with certain felony criminal convictions and also require the firing in some cases of teachers and other licensed personnel for drug felonies.

The measure, House Bill 11-1121, is similar to measures introduced by Republicans in the previous two legislative sessions. Those bills died in the Democrat-controlled legislature.

This year’s bill is sponsored by freshman Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster, and Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs. Ramirez is joined in the House by Republicans Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch, House speaker, and Tom Massey of Poncha Springs, chair of the House Education Committee. Freshman Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, also is a cosponsor.

King is the only sponsor in the Senate, where Democrats still hold the majority and where the bill may have trouble if it passes the House.

The measure would require firings of non-licensed employees if background checks turned up felonies involving child abuse, violence, sexual behavior, domestic violence, drugs or indecent exposure. It would include sex offenses committed as a juvenile that would have been felonies if committed as an adult.

For teachers and others with licenses, felony drug convictions would be grounds for firing, in some cases retroactively.

State law already requires applicants for non-teaching jobs to disclose felony convictions and submit to fingerprinting and background checks. School districts have wide latitude to reject or fire applicants with criminal backgrounds. Opponents of last year’s bill, including the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado Association of School Executives, argued that the measure was too inflexible and would unfairly deny jobs to rehabilitated individuals. The bill was killed early in the 2010 session (see story).

New parent involvement bill

Also introduced Friday was House Bill 11-1126, which would require school districts to adopt parent involvement policies that would apply to all schools and also specifically require greater communication with parents in schools that have been required to adopt improvement, priority improvement or turnaround plans.

The sole sponsor is freshman Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, a former labor union official.

The 2009 legislature passed a lengthy parent involvement bill that primarily involved parent membership on various state, district and school committees.

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

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