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Rural AP incentives, school supply sales tax holiday among new bills

Colorado Capitol

Proposals intended to make it easier for rural districts to offer Advanced Placement classes and cheaper for parents to buy school supplies were among 10 education-related bills introduced in the Colorado legislature over the last two days.

The Advanced Placement bill, sponsored by Salida Republican Rep. Jim Wilson, would create a pilot incentives program that would provide money to small rural districts based on the number of students who pass AP classes and take the related tests. Wilson, a former rural superintendent, is the sole sponsor of House Bill 14-1118. He unsuccessfully proposed a similar bill last year.

The tax holiday measure, House Bill 14-1094, would create a three-day August sales tax holiday for school-related purchases such as clothing, school supplies and some sports equipment. It has bipartisan sponsorship.

A third proposal, Senate Bill 14-086, would create a revolving loan fund that new charter schools could tap for facilities expenses. It has bipartisan sponsorship – Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango and Democratic Rep. Paul Rosenthal of Denver.

Two bills would affect school board operations. House Bill 14-1110 would place new record-keeping requirements on board executive sessions, and House Bill 14-1116 would allow compensation of board presidents and vice presidents, if local boards chose to do so.

Here’s the rundown of some other new bills:

  • House Bill 14-1102 – The measure would require school districts to provided gifted education programs “to the extent possible” within available resources and also require districts to designate gifted program administrators, data reporting on gifted students and universal screening of students to determine if they are gifted. It prime sponsor is Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, a longtime gifted-and-talented advocate who’s serving her last term in the legislature.
  • House Bill 14-1124 – Under this bill, college students who are members of American Indian tribes “with historic ties to Colorado” would be eligible for resident tuition rates.
  • House Bill 14-1120 – This measure, sponsored by Republicans Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker and Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, takes a shot at last session’s Senate Bill 13-213, the school finance overhaul. That law is on the shelf because voters rejected Amendment 66, which was needed to pay for it. Current law gives supporters until 2017 to try again for a tax hike and put SB 13-213 on the books. This bill would set the deadline this year.

The latest set of bills makes 22 education-related measures introduced so far this session. Most have been assigned to the House and Senate education committees for consideration.

But two Republican measures — one to allow tax credits for private school tuition and the other to change retirement eligibility for future Public Employees’ Retirement Association members (including teachers) — have been sent to Senate State Affairs, the so-called “kill committee.”

So far five education bills propose using money from the State Education Fund, foreshadowing upcoming fights over that account. With about $1 billion available in the fund, it’s expected to be the focus of a three-way tussle between lawmakers who want to tap it for new programs, others who want to increase basic district support and a third group that wants to conserve the fund so there’s money for future budget years.

Catch up on the details on the new bills and other education measures in the Education Bill Tracker.

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