Five Colorado lawmakers weighed in on issues ranging from school funding to student data privacy on Thursday evening at Chalkbeat’s Legislative Preview event at the University of Colorado Denver’s Lawrence Street Center.
Panelists included Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, both members of the Joint Budget Committee. It also included Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, all members of the education committees in their respective chambers.
Here is a brief summary of their remarks. The full audio recording is available at the bottom of this story.
Watch for our full legislative preview coming Monday.
The panelists agreed that funding will be a challenging issue during the 2016 session. They said said they’d try to avoid increasing the negative factor, the state’s school funding shortfall, which Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed raising to $905 million. Hamner, chair of the Joint Budget Committee, said it is not her intention to let the negative factor grow. Rankin agreed but warned the state must have a balanced budget.
The switch from the ACT to the SAT
While some legislators said they were surprised by the switch, they didn’t advocate for a reversal of the decision, which was made by a state selection committee. There was mention of the need for flexibility during the transition to the SAT. (A proposal to stick with the ACT this year and switch to the SAT next year is under consideration.)
After protracted debates over testing during the 2015 legislative session, there appears to be little appetite for a repeat performance. That said, Hamner said she’s hearing there may be legislation introduced to get rid of ninth-grade tests. Several panelists noted that district leaders are pleading for a pause in state testing changes, having struggled to keep up with all the new requirements in recent years.
Student data privacy
Given that a controversial student data privacy bill died in the assembly last spring, panelists agreed the issue would resurface this year. Holbert, who last year led the push for a compromise bill, said he would pass the torch this session. He said lawmakers should listen to parents during the debate, saying, “Discounting parent concerns is the wrong thing to do.” Kerr said student data is important to educators, helping them tailor instruction. Rankin said it’s important to find a balance between parent concerns and the reality that we live in a digital age with ubiquitous data collection in daily life.
Kerr said he intends to propose legislation that would allow voters to approve funding for statewide full-day kindergarten over five years. “It asks the voters if we can keep the money above the TABOR limit so it’s no new taxes…and if there’s any money left over after that the money would be spent paying down the negative factor,” he said.