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A new twist on an old idea

A new bill introduced in the Colorado legislature would allow parents to take income tax credits of up to $500 a year to help compensate for the costs of school fees and supplies.

The bill is proposed by freshman Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, whose day job is vice president for government affairs at the Mountain West Credit Union Association. Dore and his wife have four young children, according to his website.

The measure would allow a taxpayer to claim a credit for either 25 percent of school fees and supply costs or $500, whichever is less. Dore doesn’t yet have cosponsors for the bill, which will be heard in the House Finance Committee.

Last year lawmakers considered House Bill 12-1069, the original version of which would have created a three-day tax holiday during August when which state sales taxes on some school supply and clothing purchases would have been waived. That bill went through various versions and finally made it out of the House but died in a Senate committee during the closing days of the 2012 session.

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Also introduced Thursday was House Bill 13-1095, which seeks to guarantee that home-schooled students can participate in public school extracurricular activities. Specifically, “a school district, a public school, or an interscholastic organization cannot require a student who is enrolled in a nonpublic home-based educational program to enroll in or complete course credits as a condition of participating in an extracurricular activity,” according to the bill summary.
Bill sponsors are Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and freshman Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins.

Getting to know you

Almost everyone has endured company training sessions and other awkward social events where participants have to pair off, gather personal details about each other and then introduce their partners to the larger group. Add members of the Senate Education Committee to that list.

“Don’t laugh, we’re going to do an icebreaker activity,” chair Sen. Evie Hudak told members of the Senate Education Committee at the start of their first formal 2013 meeting. (Five senators are new to the nine-member committee, but only two of those are brand-new to the legislature.)

Members proceeded to pair off and interview each other. Among snippets produced by the exercise were:

  • Sen. Scott Renfroe’s middle name is “Winston.”
  • Sen. Nancy Todd was Miss Kansas 1965.
  • Sen. Rollie Heath’s actual first name is “Stratton.”
  • Sen. Andy Kerr is a certified snowboarding instructor.

A briefing on education issues by Department of Education officials consumed most of the committee’s long afternoon. It was the third such session of the week for the panel and for House Education, meeting individually and together. Yet another such session is scheduled for next Wednesday.

If you want a taste of what the committees learned, breeze through this CDE slideshow.
But Senate Education will get down to real work next Thursday afternoon. On its calendar is Senate Bill 13-033, the ASSET bill that would make undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates.

Hickenlooper, Garcia praise early childhood initiatives

Members of the two education committees (plus other lawmakers) got up early Thursday for a briefing on early childhood education from the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

Early childhood is a policy priority for the administration, and there was a lot of upbeat talk about the importance of quality programs and $30 million Race to the Top grant the state won last year. Lawmakers were encouraged to pass legislation that would continue the commission and allow the administration to consolidate various early childhood agencies.

But some lawmakers had concerns and worries.

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, said, “I have a great deal of concern about the state taking on [programs] that it won’t be able to sustain” after the R2T cash is spent.

Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, mentioned the challenges faced by single mothers. “A lot of these problems are beyond the reach of legislation.”

Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, wondered if enough money is going directly to child-care centers to improve teacher salaries.

You can read the commission’s 2013 annual report here.