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Reverse transfer bill passes Senate

Updated 9:45 a.m. – The Senate Thursday voted 33-0 to pass Senate Bill, 12-045, the measure that would allow students to combine credits from both community and four-year colleges to qualify for an associate’s degree. The measure now goes to the House.

The Senate also gave unanimous final approval to two measures intended to improve the operations and authorization of charter schools, Senate Bills 12-061 and 12067.

Text of Wednesday story follows.

The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to Senate Bill, 12-045, the measure that would allow students to combine credits from both community and four-year colleges to qualify for an associate’s degree.

The bill, developed by a study committee that met last summer, is touted as a way to increase the number of state residents with college degrees and create a more educated workforce.

“This bill is going to be really good for jobs and the economy,” argued prime sponsor Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, also came to the microphone to chime in that “This is a jobs bill.” Shaffer and Senate Democrats are pushing a variety of bills this year they believe will encourage creation of more jobs.

The bill was significantly amended last week by the Senate Education Committee to require students to initiate the process of assembling credits for an associate’s degree. The original version of the bill would have required colleges to do the work of determining which students were eligible. That was opposed by higher education lobbyists because of the potential cost.

Hudak alluded to that compromise, saying, “We had to figure out a way to make this process work … in a financially feasible manner.”

Senate Ed waters down another bill

Later in the day, Senate Education took up Senate Bill 12-047, the proposal by Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, to require all high school students take a skills assessment like the Accuplacer, with the state paying districts for the costs of the tests.

The idea is that giving such tests in high school would provide early warning of student deficiencies and give high schools the chance to catch students up before they get to college – and need remediation.

The committee approved an amendment that would make use of the tests voluntary for school districts. But the bill still contains language that would allow spending of up to $1 million from the State Education Fund to pay for tests. The panel approved the amended bill 5-0, and it now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its price tag.

The committee also unanimously approved Senate Bill 12-057, originally intended to exempt teachers of Native American languages from state teacher licensing requirements. That attracted the interest of various education interest groups, and the totally rewritten version of the bill passed by the committee includes various special requirements for such teachers.

Interesting enrollment count bill surfaces

House Bill 12-1306, a suggested solution to the issue of school districts having to take new students after the Oct. 1 enrollment count date and thereby not receiving funds for those students, was introduced Wednesday.

The bill would create a mechanism by which school districts and Charter School Institute schools that gained pupils after the Oct. 1 count could claim reimbursement from the state for the extra pupils. According to the bill text, this is directed at the issue of online students returning to traditional schools after the count date, so schools would be compensated at the online per-pupil rate. Additional enrollment would be measured by the number of students who took state math tests and the 11th grade ACT test in the spring compared to the Oct. 1 count.

The bill is sponsored by King and Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker. The lack of a Democratic cosponsor in a divided legislature could be an impediment.

Charter bills advance in Senate

The Senate Wednesday also gave preliminary approval to two charter school bills.

Senate Bill 12-061 would add to the current requirements for charter school applications, change application filing and decision deadlines, impose new requirements on charter school authorizers and create new standards for revoking the charters of struggling schools.

Senate Bill 12-067 would require all charter schools to be incorporated as non-profits and would prohibit school boards and the Charter School Institute from approving charter applications submitted by for-profit entities. Supporters say the bill wouldn’t affect any current charters.

Both bills stemmed from proposals developed by a study commission that was formed in 2010 in the wake of the management and financial problems of the Cesar Chavez Charter School Network. The bills have sparked little debate so far in the 2012 session.

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

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