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Big stack of education bills still awaits action

The 2015 legislative session enters its second half Monday with lots of work remaining, including on key education issues.

As of Friday 80 education-related bills had been introduced out of the total 479 measures floated in the House and Senate.

A number of education bills have been disposed of – 19 have been killed in committee and six non-controversial housekeeper measures already have been sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But 27 bills haven’t even had their first committee hearings, and more measures are expected to surface, including on top issues like testing and school finance.

Some of the new measures introduced Friday relate to workforce development, which is emerging as the fashionable new education-related issue of 2015 for both Democrats and Republicans. Several of the workforce bills would affect schools and community colleges.

Those bills include:

House Bill 15-1270 – Allows creation of “p-tech” schools that would have a focus on STEM fields, combining high school and college-level classes with workplace experience. Bipartisan sponsorship.House Bill 15-1274 – Proposes state creation of specific career pathways programs that students would use to train for employment in specific industries. Bipartisan sponsorship.

House Bill 15-1275 – Allows school districts to add apprenticeship and internship programs to the college classes now included in concurrent enrollment programs. Students use concurrent enrollment to take college classes while still in high school. Bipartisan sponsorship.

Previously introduced workforce/education bills involve career pathways (House Bill 15-1190) and career-tech scholarships (Senate Bill 15-082).

Also introduced Friday was House Bill 15-1273, which would add sexual assaults and unlawful use of marijuana on school grounds to the list of incidents that schools must report to the state. The bipartisan bill also sets requirements for law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to report school incidents to the state. And the measure requires the Division of Criminal Justice to compile periodic, detailed statewide report on school crimes and incidents.

The bill was prompted by legislator dissatisfaction with alleged gaps in school incident reporting highlighted by the 2013 fatal shooting at Littleton High School.

A bill proposing to change the way multidistrict online schools are regulated was introduced earlier in the week. Senate Bill 15-201 would change the current system, under which the Department of Education certifies such programs.

Instead, CDE would certify districts, BOCES and groups of districts that once certified would be allowed to authorize and oversee those online schools. This is a complicated and politically fraught issue. Some online schools and for-profit operators oppose regulation for such schools beyond what is provided by the state school accountability system. Other groups believe those schools need greater oversight because of low performance.

The bill doesn’t apply to online programs that districts run or authorize just for their own students.

The bill largely mirrors the recommendations made by the Online Task Force, which studied the issue over the summer and autumn. Read the panel’s report here, and see the bill text here.

The bill has been assigned not to the Senate Education Committee but to State Affairs, usually considered the chamber’s “kill committee.” But Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, is one of the bill’s prime sponsors, and he’s also a member of State Affairs.

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