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“Self-administer” bill finally advances

It took awhile, but the Senate Education Committee Thursday passed Senate Bill 11-012, a measure that’s intended to make it easier for kids to carry and use life-saving devices like asthma inhalers and epinephrine injectors at school.

The bill originated with Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who was prompted to propose it because of the hassles getting permission for his 8-year-son David could carry an inhaler at school.

Sen. Evie Hudak shows her EpiPen as a visual aid during a Senate Education Committee debate on Feb. 3, 2011.

Sen. Evie Hudak shows her EpiPen as a visual aid during a Senate Education Committee debate on Feb. 3, 2011.

Brophy’s original version drew opposition from school nurses and others worried that it would erode protections in existing state law on self-administration of such drugs by students (see story). Brophy, after meeting with several groups and lobbyists, came back to Senate Ed with a new version on Thursday.

The gist of the change would allow school boards to opt out of current state-mandated procedures and create their own more streamlined policies. Committee members went round and round on semantic and legal issues for nearly 90 minutes.

At one point during the circuitous discussion, Chair Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, joked, “I’m lost. Can some one help me find my way?’

Sen. Evie Hudak, a Westminster Democrat who’s committee vice chair, at one point pulled out her own EpiPen as a visual aid. (The devices allow users to quickly inject themselves with a life-saving drug in case of severe allergic reactions.)

After sorting things out, the committee finally voted 7-0 to approve the amended bill.

While districts could adopt their own policies on life-saving devices and other prescription drugs, they wouldn’t be allowed to ban all prescription drugs at school.

Brophy, whose facial expressions signaled alternating frustration and amusement as the discussion dragged on, pronounced himself satisfied when it was all over. “I’ve actually learned a lot from this, and I think we have a pretty good piece of policy.”

Charter grants bill gets preliminary OK

The House Thursday gave initial floor approval to House Bill 11-1089, which would give charter schools expanded ability to apply for certain kinds of federal and state grants without approval of their authorizing school districts.

House members turned back two Democratic-sponsored amendments that would have clarified the responsibility for grant repayments and would have restricted the kinds of charters that would have the expanded ability to apply for grants.

The measure, one of the legislative priorities of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, would allow charters to apply for competitive grants under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The state Charter School Institute would supervise the financial administration regardless of whether a school was chartered by a district or by the institute.

The bill has made some educators nervous because of concerns it would create competition between districts and their charters.

Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, proposed an amendment that would have specified that the institute was responsible for repaying grants that schools didn’t use properly. Bill sponsor Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, said that was covered by current law, and the amendment was defeated.

Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County, moved an amendment that would have limited the kinds of charters covered by the bill, based on their percentage of at-risk students, but that also was defeated.

Measure proposes yet another higher ed study

House Bill 11-1184, introduced Thursday by Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, would create a “higher education funding committee to review and make recommendations concerning funding for the statewide system of higher education.”

Another legislatively sanctioned study panel, the Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee, finished a higher ed master plan late last year. That report detailed the funding challenges facing state colleges and universities and discussed some possible sources of new funding but made no specific, detailed recommendations on that subject.

Another education bills introduced Thursday include Senate Bill 11-133, which would direct the state Juvenile Justice Task Force “to study and collect data concerning the use of criminal justice sanctions and specified school discipline strategies in the public schools in the state,” and House Bill 11-1169, concerning sharing of information between college police and administrators about possible threats.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for bill texts and status information