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Lots to do as the days dwindle

With just a month left in the legislative session, important bills on next year’s K-12 spending, teacher licensing and overhaul of the entire school funding system remain to be decided.

In fact, two of those bills, on 2013-14 spending and on licensing, have yet to be introduced, although that’s expected to happen this week.

The most interesting higher education bill of 2013 also is on tap this week. Senate Bill 13-165, which would allow community colleges to seek approval for a limited number of bachelor’s degree programs, will be heard in the House Education Committee Monday afternoon. The bill has run into opposition from some four-year institutions but had bipartisan support to get out of the Senate.

Education bills will have to compete for attention with other big, contentious issues before in the weeks before the adjournment deadline of May 8. Lawmakers are expected to also face bills on regulation of the oil and gas industry, oversight of legalized marijuana and election procedures.

Only one major piece of education legislation has passed through both houses. Senate Bill 13-033, the measure to make undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates, passed the House a month ago.

Here’s a look at some of the education measures legislators still face.

The big issues

School spending in 2013-14 – Base K-12 funding is set by the state budget, Senate Bill 13-230, which was based by the House on Friday. (The Joint Budget Committee this week has the task of reconciling House and Senate amendments.)

Additional school spending is contained in the annual school finance bill, which may be introduced Tuesday so that the Senate Education Committee can take a first crack at it on Wednesday. It’s not yet known how big the bill’s price tag will be or which programs it will target. Sponsor Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, has said she hopes the bill will provide additional money for school operating expenses, early childhood education, special education, English language learners, charter school facilities costs and for implementation of the 2012 READ Act.

Teacher and principal licensing – There’s been chatter about a licensing bill since last fall, when the Department of Education released a report recommending significant changes in licensing, including tying license renewal to evaluation results (see story).

Sen. Mike Johnston explains his school finance plan during a Feb. 28 meeting. / File photo
Sen. Mike Johnston explains his school finance plan during a Feb. 28 meeting. / File photo

Denver Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston, who’s had his hands full with the undocumented students bill and finance reform legislation, also is the point man on this bill. His staff indicated Friday that the measure would be introduced Monday or Tuesday but weren’t ready to outline the details.

However, a memo circulated by Johnston last month indicated the bill might propose elimination of most current state regulations for teacher prep programs, make it possible for people who have college degrees and who can pass a content knowledge test to obtain “transitional” teaching licenses, create master licenses for highly effective educators and set up a new appointed board to advise the Department of Education on licensing. The bill also is expected to cover principal licensing.

School finance reform – Johnston’s Senate Bill 13-213 was passed by the Senate last week after lengthy debate. It’s not scheduled for its first House hearing, in the education committee, until April 15, 18 days before the session is due to close. (See this story for background on the bill and the Senate deliberations.)

The rest of the list

Accountability – Only two relatively minor measures have been introduced on this subject. Senate Bill 13-217, which would give the Department of Education more flexibility in deciding how performance of alternative school students affects district ratings, was passed by Senate Education last week so still has a ways to go (see story).

Senate Bill 13-193, which would give school accountability committees a greater role in school improvement plans, is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

English language learners – A measure intended to improve services for these students, House Bill 13-1211, still has to go to the House floor and through the Senate. House Bill 13-1211 contains no extra funding, but that problem might be taken care of in the 2013-14 school finance act. (See this story for background.)

Evaluation – A proposal to ensure the confidentiality of educator evaluation data is scheduled in Senate Education on Wednesday. House Bill 13-1220 passed through the House easily. Another measure, House Bill 13-1257, would require consultation with unions or teachers groups when a district wants to implement its own evaluation system. It will be considered by House Education on Wednesday.

School construction – A proposal to increase legislative oversight of the Building Excellent Schools Today program was introduced in mid-March, but Senate Bill 13-214 still hasn’t been scheduled for a Senate Education hearing.

School security – Despite the Connecticut school shootings – and a lot of controversy in the legislature over gun legislation – only a single modest measure is pending in the legislature. Senate Bill 13-138, which contains various provisions to improve school resource officer programs, is awaiting House Appropriations review before going to the floor.

Sex education – A controversial bill to create a new comprehensive sex education grant program – with accompanying requirements – has passed both houses. But House Bill 13-1081 has been hanging around on the House calendar awaiting floor consideration of Senate amendments.

Student health – The “breakfast after the bell” measure, House Bill 13-1006, is on the Senate Appropriations calendar for Friday. Several school districts still have concerns about its potential costs.

Truancy – A measure intended to limit the amount of time habitually truant students spend in juvenile detention has passed the House. Senate Education hasn’t yet scheduled a hearing on House Bill 13-1021.

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