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A little dustup in Senate Ed

The proposal to provide state stipends for nationally board certified teachers was laid over abruptly in the Senate Education Committee Thursday after a sharp disagreement between the Democratic vice-chair and a Republican member over an amendment.

House Bill 12-1261 would provide $1,600 annual stipends to teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and $4,800 payments to such teachers who work in schools that are accredited with turnaround or priority improvement status. (The bill would continue an existing but unfunded law that’s due to expire.)

Colorado has 641 certified teachers out of about 95,000 nationwide, according to testimony Thursday.

The bill started in the House with an entirely different proposal for encouraging experienced teachers to work in low-performing schools. But sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, had it amended to focus on stipends for certified teachers.

But the bill’s title doesn’t say anything about board certified teachers, and Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, questioned whether the measure could go forward because of that. (Colorado legislative rules are fairly tight about what a bill can contain under the wording of its title.)

“It came from the House this way, and the chair of the House Education Committee thought it fit just fine,” said sponsor Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

“How can we pass a bill that doesn’t do what the title says?” asked Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Bacon is committee chair but wasn’t presiding because he was presenting the bill. Vice Chair Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, wasn’t in the room for part of the discussion but returned before King started to offer amendments that would add professional development funding for teachers at low-performing schools and bonuses when such schools improve.

She abruptly ruled that his first amendment didn’t fit under the title, prompting a sharp reaction from King: “This has been a very collegial education committee this year, [but] this is disgusting.”

Bacon told Hudak to lay the bill over and adjourn the meeting. After the gavel fell, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, worked his way around the committee table, trying to cool down tempers.

(Get more details on the bill in this legislative staff analysis.)

For the record

The House Thursday gave final 64-1 approval to House Bill 12-1335, the main state budget bill for 2012-13. Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker and a member of House Education, was the only no vote. House Bill 12-1338 passed on a 65-0 vote. It requires that any surplus state revenues be transferred to the State Education Fund at the end of this fiscal year and at the end of 2012-13. (A minimum $59 million would be transferred at the end of this year.)

The Senate Finance Committee voted 4-3 (Democrats yes, Republicans no) to kill House Bill 12-1150, which would have required that Public Employees’ Retirement Association benefits be calculated on the highest seven years of salary, not on the three years used now. It would have applied only to new employees. It was the sixth of seven GOP-backed PERA bills killed so far this session.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.