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Under the dome, Colorado State Capitol

Under the dome, Colorado State Capitol

Colorado education legislation roundup: One week to go

The Senate this week celebrated what many in the education world are looking forward to: a significant funding increase for the first time in nearly a decade and the ability of all districts to offer full-day kindergarten.

There are still a few steps left for those measures.

The House must approve Senate amendments to the full-day kindergarten bill, which includes $175 million in funding. Then it will head to Gov. Jared Polis, where it’s likely there will be a celebratory signing ceremony.

It’s worth noting that the Senate approved the measure unanimously, with Republicans joining Democrats to sing its praises. In the House, 11 Republicans voted against the bill. They included three Republicans who voted for the bill in the House Education Committee.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a bill Saturday that will increase money for K-12 capital construction, including $25 million for facilities for full-day kindergarten. That bill goes to Polis for his signature.

Then there’s the Public School Finance Act, which awaits action in the House. The Senate also gave unanimous approval to Senate Bill 246. It includes a $100 million buydown of money owed to districts since the recession, $20 million for rural schools and $22 million for special needs students.

Technically, the school finance bill is the only remaining item that lawmakers must accomplish before the May 3 adjournment.

But with lots of priority bills for Democrats and Polis awaiting action, it’s possible we may have to wait a while for school finance to hit the House floor.

“Slowing the roll” might as well be the 2019 General Assembly theme for Republicans. They’ve insisted entire bills be read at length in both houses, and extended debate more than usual, including on bills that in other times might not be that controversial.

Because of that, both the House and the Senate met Saturday.

If the school finance act passes the House and heads to the governor, the GOP might be even more filibuster-emboldened. And that could endanger measures such as asking voters to triple the cigarette tax, asking voters to let the state keep money over TABOR limits for roads and schools, and plenty more.

Other key education measures still awaiting action:

  • A measure to allow 12- and 13-year-olds to receive at least a few sessions of mental health counseling before their parents are notified. The bill awaits Senate floor action, where Republicans are expected to resist, as they have every step of the way.
  • A controversial bill to strengthen reporting on whether children are vaccinated. The House debated the bill until 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. It passed 39-20 on Saturday after lengthy debate, and now heads to the Senate.
  • A bill that puts new money into dropout prevention programs passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. The programs focus on helping ninth graders get a good start.
  • The Senate unanimously approved revisions to a program at improving an early elementary reading program. It’s likely to get quick House action.
  • The Senate also signed off on a bill that creates a grant program to support experiments with local accountability pilot programs. It needs House approval but has drawn broad bipartisan support.
  • A bill to create a pilot program to put more social workers in a few elementary schools passed the House Friday. It still needs Senate approval.
  • The Senate began debating a bill expanding civics education to include Asian-Americans, LGBTQ people and all religions Thursday, but set it aside after heated opposition from Republicans. Right now, it’s scheduled to resume on Monday.

Other updates from the week:

  • A measure expanding school lunch subsidies to low-income high-schoolers heads to the governor after Senate approval.
  • The Senate approved a bill to expand dyslexia screening for young students. It goes to the governor.
  • An overhaul of the state’s teacher evaluation system faded away when the Senate Education Committee set it aside without a vote Thursday. Polis said earlier in the week that he’d consider a working group to review the system.
  • Polis signed a bill Thursday that requires colleges to stop offering remedial courses, which often don’t provide credit, and instead offer tutoring in for-credit classes.

Also. Thursday featured swarms of homeschooled children at the Capitol, plus more than a few kids conscripted into Take Your Child to Work Day. One was overheard in the Senate gallery with this observation: “It’s booorrring.” To which we say: Sorry, kid.

Don’t forget to check out Chalkbeat’s bill tracker for a full look at education legislation.