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“Mandates” bill headed to Senate floor

The Senate Education Committee Thursday added its own tweaks to the much-massaged House Bill 11-1277, a measure that proposes changes in multiple Department of Education requirements and reporting deadlines.

The legislation originally was billed as a comprehensive easing of various state mandates and reporting requirements on school districts, but it’s ended up as something less than that.

Colorado Department of Education
Colorado Department of Education

And, as first introduced, the bill would have required that education-related bills that imposed new costs on school districts be accompanied by state money to pay those costs.

That was quickly dismissed in the House as impractical, both financially and politically, and replaced with a requirement that school districts be allowed to file information with the legislature about any bills that might require new spending.

Senate Ed passed an amendment proposed an amendment by Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, that would restrict that comment ability only to bills whose impact would require schools to hire additional staff. Johnston said he was concerned about the legislature receiving a flood of information from districts about bills that proposed new duties that could be handled within existing resources.

The bill also proposes changes in the standards schools must meet to be declared alternative education campuses. The committee passed an amendment that tightens the language that was passed by the House.

A key provision of the bill reduces some of the information reporting requirements established for online schools by a 2007 law.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, asked if that would mean less information would be available about online schools and their performance on specific standards set by the 2007 law.

Rich Wenning, CDE associate commissioner, testified that a subsequent law, the 2009 accountability statute, includes online schools in the overall performance and improvement system and that achievement and other data is easily accessible on the department’s website.

Wenning added, though, that if the bill becomes law the department probably will have to give districts guidance on how to report performance on some of the requirements that apply specifically to online schools.

The terms of the bill hammered out by a wide variety of education interest groups. Representatives of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Education Association gave brief statements in favor of the bill.

Other provisions of the bill would:

  • Require CDE to provide achievement and growth data to individual schools within 10 days after releasing it to districts.
  • Give the commissioner of education to option of approving final restructuring and turnaround plans rather than having to formally approve each one.
  • Allow a district with fewer than 1,000 students to file a single performance plan rather than one for each school.
  • Make extensive changes in state law on special education to conform to local practice and federal law.
  • Permits charter school collaboratives to function as a school food authorities.

Get more details in this legislative staff summary

Odds and ends

Some other education members did advance during a chaotic fifth-to-the-last day of the session, including:

  • House Bill 11-1254, the anti-bullying measure, was passed 23-10 by the Senate.
  • House Bill 11-1121, which bars people with certain felony convictions from non-licensed school jobs, passed the Senate 33-0.

The Senate also gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 11-266, which would require background checks on employees of contractors who work for schools.

The House, which met late for the third straight evening, gave preliminary approval to:

  • Senate Bill 11-204 – Updating role and mission for Colorado State University-Pueblo and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
  • Senate Bill 11-111 – Creating a study of student transitions and remediation
  • Senate Bill 11-265 – Renaming Mesa State College as Colorado Mesa University
  • Senate Bill 11-133 – Launching a study of school discipline methods

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

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