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GOP challenges contracts bill

Senate Bill 12-051 is one of those bills that doesn’t seem to do much because it’s mostly advisory for school districts, but that didn’t prevent a lengthy debate on the Senate floor Friday before the bill received preliminary approval on a voice vote.

The measure directs school boards to “consider” adopting contracting policies that would include the factor of “whether the contractor understands the culture of the affected school and will execute the contract in a manner that supports student success.”

Districts wouldn’t be obligated to change any policies. If they did, the bill would apply only to contracts for non-educational services, and it wouldn’t apply to contracts worth less than $100,000. The bill also contains provisions for posting some contract information on district websites.

Some Republican senators had questions about the “culture” provision.

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, asked, “Why do we give a darn what their [a contractor’s] philosophical belief is? … There’s some other agenda in this other than transparency.”

Sponsor Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, responded, “There is no hidden agenda.” He tried to explain “culture” by saying “every contractor that comes into a school has a mission beyond sweeping the floors or dishing out the food,” and that mission is helping advance student achievement.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, said he has a theory about the motivation for the bill, saying, “My feeling is the unions want this information so they can go and try to unionize employees.”

The bill is being supported by the American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers in the Douglas County district, and the measure is seen as a way to provide greater transparency when school districts outsource services. The Colorado Education Association also has endorsed the bill.

The House had another abbreviated floor session Friday (one GOP member is excused this week for family reasons, so Republicans don’t have a majority), but the chamber did give preliminary approval to House Bill 12-1124. That bill directs the Department of Education to hire a consultant to do a comprehensive study of digital learning in the state. There was no floor debate.

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

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