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Teacher stipend bill passes first test

The House Education Committee on Wednesday gave 13-0 approval to House Bill 12-1261, which would provide stipends to teachers who hold certifications from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

All board-certified teachers would receive annual stipends of $1,600; those who teach in low-performing schools would get an extra $3,200.

Sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, argued that national certification is a “proven program” that reflects teacher quality and that teachers should be encouraged to earn certification.

Committee members of both parties were sympathetic, but they had some questions.

“To me, the issue is how do we pay for all of this,” said Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, referring to the bill’s estimated $1.7 million annual cost.

Solano noted that bill would make the stipends “subject to available appropriations,” which means that the legislature would decide every year whether it has the money to fund the program. (See the legislative fiscal note that explains the bill’s terms and potential costs.)

Some Republican committee members asked whether board certified teachers already receive extra pay from their districts (some do) and whether it’s appropriate to pay teachers for “inputs” (additional training) rather for “outputs” (improved student achievement).

“I looked at the bill with a lot of questions because I do not favor rewarding inputs rather than outputs,” said Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock. But she said she would support the bill because of the quality of the board certification program and because the reform group Stand for Children supports it.

A 2008 law created stipends for board-certified teachers, but the program hasn’t been funded because of the state’s budget woes. HB 12-1261 now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

According to testimony at the meeting, there are about 97,000 board certified teachers nationwide, about 640 of them in Colorado. The state total is up 17 percent in the last year.

Another bill with a price tag

The other measure approved by House Ed Wednesday, House Bill 12-1306, also bears the burden of costing money.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, the measure would reimburse school districts that gain students between the Oct. 1 enrollment count and the end of the school year. The bill is intended partly as an answer to concerns that some online students return to regular schools after Oct. 1, creating an unfunded cost for districts.

Holbert noted both Wednesday and during a Monday hearing that the problem doesn’t seem to be as big as some people have thought. Only about three dozen districts gain a total of about 210 students from October to spring, he said Wednesday.

But reimbursing those districts for additional students still would cost about $1.2 million a year, so the bill also is off to the appropriations committee, which will determine if there’s money to pay for it.

Meanwhile in Senate Ed

The Senate Education Committee Wednesday gave 7-0 approval to House Bill 12-1124, which would direct the Department of Education to hire a contractor to conduct a comprehensive study of “digital learning,” including online schools, blended learning and use of technology in classrooms.

Some committee members had questions about the bill’s requirement that the contractor be Colorado-based, and about whether the January 2013 deadline for finishing the report is too tight.

But Senate sponsor Mike Johnston, D-Denver, seemed to assuage those concerns, and the bill moved to the full Senate.

Education budget decisions still hanging

The Joint Budget Committee met for the first time Wednesday after an interesting Monday session on key elements of education spending for 2012-13, including how much money to spend on developing new state tests. (See this story for details on that Monday meeting.)

The JBC didn’t return to those issues Wednesday; it looks like they won’t come up again until Friday at the earliest.

But the State Board of Education – the target of criticism by one JBC member on Monday – did talk about 2012-13 spending on Wednesday.

Some board members said they still want $25.9 million next year to develop new state tests to replace the CSAPs, but the board also seemed realistic about the likelihood that it won’t get the money.

“They set the policy and we do a conscientious job of implementing it,” said SBE chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District.

A JBC staff analyst has recommended spending about $8.2 million next budget year to start development of social studies, science and financial literacy assessments while waiting to see if it makes sense for Colorado to sign on to multi-state tests in language arts and math.

Some SBE members don’t want multi-state tests, but the board Wednesday seemed flexible about dealing with whatever the JBC decides to spend next year.