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Big day for a freshman senator

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger has only been in the legislature for 51 session days, so Thursday was a big day, given that she presented one bill to the Senate Education Committee and introduced another education measure of note.

Senate Education passed her Senate Bill 14-124, which would create a $2 million grant program that districts and charters schools could apply to for money to train principals for low-performing schools.

Zenzinger thoroughly prepared for the hearing, reading a carefully prepared statement to the committee (of which she’s a member) and marshaling more than a dozen witnesses to testify for the bill. Former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, a leading figure in education reform circles, led off the testimony, and the hearing on the bill took more than two hours, as a parade of principals, teachers, parents and others testified for the measure. (Read the bill here, and check the legislative staff summary here.)

Committee Republicans, complaining that the bill was too bureaucratic, weren’t persuaded by the testimony, and the bill was passed on to the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 4-3 party-line vote.

Earlier in the day, Zenzinger – along with co-prime sponsor Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora — introduced Senate Bill 14-150. The measure would increase funding for the Colorado Counselor Corps program from $5 million to $10 million a year and expand both eligibility and requirements for the program. The corps is intended to increase the number of counselors working in high-needs schools. (Read the bill here.)

Zenzinger, a Democrat, is a former member of the Arvada City Council and has been active in a wide variety of north metro civic groups. She was appointed to her Senate seat in December after Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, resigned to avoid a recall organized by gun rights activists. Such groups previously had successfully recalled two other Democratic senators, shaving the party’s Senate majority to one vote. Hudak was persuaded to resign to avoid a loss of Democratic control of the Senate.

Zenzinger works for Regis University as coordinator of the master of arts in education program.