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Fresh bills raise hot-button education issues

New education bills introduced in the legislature at week’s end include a measure that would allow carrying of concealed weapons on school grounds, and a proposal requiring schools to get state approval if they want to use American Indian names and images as school mascots.

Both measure are likely to spark emotional and lengthy committee hearings, but neither has a high chance of passage, given split party control of the General Assembly.

Another new bill seeks to give small school districts relief from some of the paperwork required by the state accountability and rating system. The bill also would streamline early-literacy requirements for small districts.

And two fresh measures seek to involve schools more closely in state workforce development initiatives and encourage school-business cooperation in training students for future jobs. Workforce issues are a top priority this session for a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and there may be more bills on this subject.

Here’s a quick look at the new education bills. Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to texts and more detailed information. With the new measures, 54 education-related bills have been introduced so far this year.

House Bill 15-1168 – Repeals the current prohibition on carrying concealed weapons on school grounds. Prime sponsors: Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock; Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton.

House Bill 15-1165 – Requires schools and colleges that have American Indian mascots to get approval from a special state committee to use such mascots and imposes fines for unauthorized use. Prime sponsors: Reps. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora; Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster.

House Bill 15-1155 – Reduces some of the paperwork required under state accountability law for districts with fewer than 1,000 students. Also exempts such districts from some school accountability requirements and streamlines paperwork required by the state early literacy program. Prime sponsor: Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida

House Bill 15-1170 – Expands the state rating system for districts and schools to include factors related to how many high school graduates enter technical training, community college or four-year colleges. Also specifies business representation on district accountability committees and creates a new position of statewide postsecondary and workforce readiness coordinator. Prime sponsors: Reps. Tracy Kraft Tharp, D-Arvada, and Jim Wilson, R-Salida; Sens. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.

House Bill 15-1190 – Requires the state departments of labor and education to provide technical assistance to school districts on how to focus on workforce needs and develop partnerships with industry. Prime sponsor: Rep. JoAnn Windholz, R-Brighton.

House Bill 15-1184 – Creates new requirements for the relationships between school districts and charter school networks that operate more than one school. Prime sponsors: Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver; Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs

House Bill 15-1156 – Technical but potentially controversial proposal to require that only the graduation rates and other performance indicators of resident undergraduate students be used in calculating college performance under the new higher education funding system. Prime sponsor: Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch