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Committees quickly add to ranks of fallen education bills

A dozen education-related bills were killed in committee Monday during the frenzy of activity that marked the 118th day of the 2015 legislature’s 120-day session.

Many of those measures killed were House bills dispatched during late afternoon and evening sessions of committees in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Some notable proposals that were killed include:

Pensions – House Bill 15-1388, introduced only last week, would have allowed the state to sell bonds and use the proceeds to improve the funding of the school and district divisions of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association. (This bill was killed during an early-morning Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.)

Charters – A behind-the-scenes lobbying fight was waged for much of the session over Senate Bill 15-216. The measure would have given the state Charter School Institute more power to authorize schools in districts rated as turnaround or priority improvement. School districts strongly opposed the bill, which had bipartisan sponsorship.

Student learning objectives – House Bill 15-1324 would have offered grants to school districts to develop student learning objectives, which are techniques teachers use to measure student progress toward specific learning goals. Some schools and districts already use these, but the bill was intended to spread the practice through training grants. The Colorado Education Association backed this bill in hopes of providing another tool to use in teacher evaluations.

Small districts – District consolidation is a taboo topic in Colorado, but House Bill 15-1201 was designed to approach small-district problems in another way. The bill would have given grants to boards of cooperative educational services to help districts consolidate administrative services.

A testing footnote – The Senate Education Committee quietly killed Sen. Owen Hill’s Senate Bill 15-215 by the procedural technique of delaying consideration until after the legislature adjourns for good. When introduced the bill was touted as the compromise on testing, but it never gained any traction.

It’s been a record session both for the number of education-related bills introduced – 119 – and for the high percentage of those that didn’t survive. As of Monday, 72 of those bills have been defeated.

Here are the other bills that didn’t survive Monday:

  • House Bill 15-1003 – Funding of safe routes to school program
  • House Bill 15-1027 – Resident tuition eligibility of Indian students belonging to tribes with historic ties to Colorado
  • House Bill 15-1334 – Background checks for staff and volunteers of youth sports organizations
  • House Bill 15-1349 – Grow your own teacher initiative
  • House Bill 15-1369 – Resident tuition status of homeless students
  • Senate Bill 15-117 – Technical measure on higher education funding
  • Senate Bill 15-280 – Technical measure on calculation of online students in small districts

Good news for some bill sponsors

Education bills of interest that survived Monday and passed the Capitol finish line include:

School violence – The Senate accepted fairly minor House amendments and voted 24-14 to re-pass Senate Bill 15-213, the “Claire Davis Act.” The bill goes to the governor. This is the measure that opens school districts to lawsuits in cases of murder, first-degree assault and sexual assault. There is a cap on damages, and districts would have a two-year grace period before they could be sued. The bill also requires districts to provide information about incidents to families.

Creative financing – The Senate voted 22-13 to pass House Bill 15-1317. This is the pay for success proposal, which would allow the state to create programs under which private investors and foundation could pay for social services, like early childhood programs. Funders would be paid off from future savings in other programs, such as reduced remedial or special education costs for kids who went through the early learning program.

Truancy – The House voted 63-1 to pass Senate Bill 15-184, the watered-down measure that only would require the state’s courts to review their policies for handling truant students and to minimize the jailing of truant students who refuse to return to school. The Senate agreed to House amendments.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to more information about all these bills.

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