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Teacher evaluation rules now law

Updated 11:15 a.m. – Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday signed House Bill 12-1001, the measure that ratifies the regulations needed to implement the state educator effectiveness system.

Surrounded by sponsors of Senate Bill 10-191, which launched the system, Hickenlooper praised the unanimity behind the rules as evidence that “Colorado does things very differently than other states.”

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and father of the bill, said the coalition behind the evaluation system “is broader and deeper than it was before.”

With no debate, the Senate on Tuesday voted 35-0 to send the bill to the governor.

The bill moved quickly and quietly through the legislature, a testimony to wide agreement among education interest groups on the rules, which were developed over two years.

Normally, all rules issued by state agencies in a year are ratified through a single bill. But SB 10-191 included a provision for separate review of the evaluation regulations. That provision was intended to reassure skeptics by setting up the legislature as a backstop to rules seen as punitive or unfair to teachers.

SB 10-191 required the legislature act on the rules and the governor sign the bill by Feb. 15.

But signing of the bill is by no means the final step in establishing the evaluation system. Rules remain to be written for some key parts of the system, including how to evaluate licensed educators who aren’t classroom teachers and how teachers can appeal two consecutive ineffective ratings. Proposed appeals rules are under review by the State Board of Education and won’t be issued until later this spring (see story).

Elements of the evaluation system are being pilot-tested in selected school districts this school year and next. Department of Education officials expect that the experience gained from the pilots will lead to future changes in the regulations.

A key element of the SB 10-191 system is the requirement that at least 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations be based on student academic growth as measured by results on statewide tests and other measures.

The new system will be implemented in all school districts in 2013-14, and 2015-16 is the first year that evaluations will be used to determine if a teacher loses non-probationary status.

Get more information here on the regulations.

Concealed carry bill passes

After lengthy partisan debate, the full House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 12-1047, which would give people who have a legal right to carry handguns the ability to carry then concealed without obtaining a separate concealed weapons permit.

The bill is among several Republican gun-rights bills floating around this session, but education has been drawn into the HB 12-1047 debate because of its possible impact on schools and colleges. Supporters say the bill wouldn’t allow carrying concealed weapons on school grounds. The House did accept an amendment offered by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County and a former superintendent, that specifics the ban applies to all district facilities, not just school buildings.

The bill would allow carrying on concealed weapons on college campuses. Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, remarked, “I teach at community college, and this has me terrified.”

A Senate version of the idea, Senate Bill 12-025, was killed in committee last month. HB 12-1047 is expected to meet the same fate after it moves to the Senate.

Last Senate PERA bill bites the dust

The Senate Finance Committee voted 5-2 Tuesday to kill Senate Bill 12-084, which would have required public disclosure of pension benefits paid to former elected officials and cabinet-level civil servants.

Sponsor Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, saying the bill was inspired by articles he’d read in USA Today about pension abuses in other states, argued that elected officials’ pension benefits should be “transparent” to the public.

Meredith Williams, executive director of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, testified against the bill, saying it would be very hard for the system to provide the data.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, joined four committee Democrats to kill the bill.

PERA is a regular target for some GOP lawmakers, and two other Republican bills already have been killed in the Democratic controlled Senate. They are Senate Bill 12-082, which would have raised retirement eligibility ages, and Senate Bill 12-119, which would have required adjustment of retirement benefits based on the system’s solvency.

Four PERA bills are pending in the Republican controlled Senate. They are House Bill 12-1142, designed to expand participation on PERA’s defined contribution plan; House Bill 12-1150, which would change the calculation of retirement benefits for employees who retire after Jan. 1, 2013; House Bill 12-1179, which would increase the number of non-system members on the PERA board, and House Bill 12-1250, which would change the contribution method for the PERA health insurance program.

PERA has more than 400,000 members and covers all Colorado teachers and thousands of higher education employees.

For the record

The House gave 63-0 final approval to House Bill 12-1072, which directs the state higher education system to develop methods for awarding college credit for life experience.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to House Bill 12-1201, which raises total school support in the current budget year by nearly $20 million to cover enrollment increases. The increase is coming from local tax revenues, which were higher than expected, and state spending actually is being reduced.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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