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Rural district AP class bill advances

The House has given preliminary approval to a bill that would provide funding to rural school districts for offering Advanced Placement classes and tests and also provide bonuses to rural teachers whose students successfully pass the tests.

House Bill 13-1056 passed a preliminary floor vote Tuesday after several supporting comments by members and no apparent opposition. The bill is the brainchild of Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida, a freshman Republican and retired superintendent.

The goal is to encourage more rural high school students to take AP classes and tests. A legislative staff analysis found that while about 39 percent of all eligible Colorado students participate in AP, only 2 to 7 percent do so in rural districts.

The program would apply to school districts with fewer than 6,500 students and that are otherwise defined as rural by the state Department of Education. (See this list for CDE geographical classifications of districts.)

Districts would receive $500 for every student who completes and AP class and takes an exam, regardless of whether they pass. Districts would receive an additional $500 for every student who passes a test, with $75 of that going to the teachers of each passing student. Teacher bonuses would be capped at $2,000 a year.

Money received by districts would have to be used for costs of the AP program, teacher professional development and to pay AP fees for students who are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. The program would be limited to 10,000 students a year and would expire in 2017.

The bill’s $710,529 price tag would be paid from the State Education Fund, a dedicated account used for a variety of school funding purposes.

The bill needs a final House roll call vote before it moves to the Senate.

In other action

The House, working to whittle down its calendar before it starts three days of work on the proposed 2013-14 state budget, advanced two other education bills of interest on Tuesday.

House Bill 13-1171 – This measure would allow school districts to develop policies for use of epinephrine injectors by school nurses and other trained personnel on students who experience anaphylaxis because of allergic reactions. Currently nurses can use the devices only on students who have prescriptions for them. The measure received preliminary approval. The bill is optional for districts.

Senate Bill 13-139 – The bill would change the way some supplemental online courses are provided to districts and schools. Under current law those course are managed by the Leadville-based Mountain Board of Cooperative Education Services, which contracts with Colorado Online Learning for classes.

The bill directs the Department of Education to contract with a BOCES to be chosen later that in turn would contract with one or more non-profit online providers for classes. New proposals would be sought every three years. The goal of the bill is to expand online access. The measure applies only to supplemental online classes that students take in addition to regular classes. It doesn’t apply to online-only programs.

The measure received final House approval.

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