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Wednesday Churn: Decision on tests?

What’s churning:

The House State Affairs Committee this afternoon takes another crack at House Bill 12-1091, Rep. Judy Solano’s 2011 attempt to eliminate state writing tests and one set of high school exams.

The savings from doing that – estimated at $1.5 million to $6.3 million, depending on whom you talk to – would be transferred to the Colorado Preschool Program and allow more low-income kids to be brought into the program.

Supporters of the bill have some lingering hard feelings about last Thursday’s State Affairs meeting, a badly managed affair that didn’t allow enough time for witnesses to testify. Further consideration was delayed until today to allow for a full hearing.

Those pushing the bill also aren’t happy with the assignment to State Affairs, frequently used as a kill committee for measures House leadership doesn’t like. The committee earlier killed Solano’s House Bill 12-1049, which would have clarified parents’ rights to opt kids out of state testing.

In case you missed it, federal prosecutors say 23 medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools have closed in response to warning letters issued in January.

Here’s the text of the press release issued Tuesday:

DENVER – On January 12, 2012, U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent a letter to certain marijuana stores operating within 1,000 feet of schools warning them that if they did not close within 45 days they would be the subject of civil and possible criminal action. Today the DEA went to each address to determine whether the marijuana store was closed. If a store was not closed, the DEA would then implement their enforcement action to close that marijuana store.

The U.S. Attorney and the Drug Enforcement Administration is announcing that the targeted stores are all closed. Enforcement action proved necessary at five locations. After entering those locations the DEA determined that the sale or distribution of marijuana had ceased at that location, and therefore the location was closed.

“Thanks to the excellent work of the DEA, working hand in glove with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we were able to close marijuana stores that sold a Scheduled I Controlled Substance within 1,000 feet of a school,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “These stores were closed without incident. This effort is about protecting children from illegal drugs, and maintaining drug free zones around our schools in compliance with federal law.”

“The purpose of today’s action by the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office was to enforce federal law with regard to marijuana stores operating within 1,000 feet of schools in Colorado,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Barbra M. Roach. “Marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, is a dangerous drug – especially when used by children. The closure of the targeted dispensaries today will make those affected schools more secure for our children and teachers throughout the State of Colorado.”

There were 23 stores on the original list. After further investigation it was determined that one store was by a school building, but that building was no longer being used to educate children. That letter was withdrawn.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is now working on phase two, which will be similar to phase one. A list of marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools will receive similar letters advising them to close or face civil or criminal penalties.

Read our special reports on medical marijuana and K-12 schools, including a closer look at the recent rise in drug violations at Colorado campuses.

What’s on tap:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia today are scheduled to unveil their plan for early childhood literacy, “Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative.” The issue is a key part of the administration’s education policy agenda, and the lieutenant governor’s office has been coordinating a weeklong series of events around literacy and early reading.

On Monday, Garcia announced that a $150,000 grant from Target will be combined with $300,000 from AmeriCorps to help establish the Colorado Reading Corps, an early literacy program designed to help children become successful readers. The effort is modeled after the Serve Minnesota Reading Corps.

The lieutenant governor also announced a project named One Book 4 Colorado, an effort that will provide more than 70,000 copies of the same book to Colorado kids in late April.

Get more information here on the administration’s early childhood efforts.

The major literacy legislation of the 2011 session, House Bill 12-1238, is set for a hearing in the House Education Committee next Monday afternoon.

While the proposal is complicated, key provisions would require schools to do a better job of assessing third-graders’ reading abilities and would strongly encourage schools to hold back students with serious reading deficiencies. (Read the bill here.)

The administration has had an active role in the bill, which is supported by a wide variety of education groups. But holding students back is a touchy subject, and some legislative Democrats are known to have concerns.

Some State Board of Education members also raised questions about HB 12-1238 during a meeting last Friday, especially Debora Scheffel, R-6th District.

“The language in the bill is just very vague,” Scheffel said. “I feel like it really takes us backwards.”

Board member Marcia Neal, R-3rd District, said. “We need to monitor this very carefully.”

Good reads from elsewhere:

ESEA reauthorization: The U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee Tuesday approved two Republican bills that would reauthorize portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The general thrust of the bills is to scale back the federal role in education. Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog has a good explanation of what the amendments would do – and why they’re not going anywhere fast.

Restless students: A third of college students now transfer at least once before earning a degree, according to a new study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. See this story in The Chronicle of Higher Education for details.

The EdNews’ Churn is a daily roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

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