Each legislative session has its own rhythm, but one thing is true every year – the heavy lifting gets done in the session’s second half. That’s certainly the case for education bills this year.
School finance, the 800-pound gorilla of 2014, and virtually every other education bill of any interest are still far from decided.
Monday will be the 69th of the 120 calendar days the state constitution allows for each year’s session. Because lawmakers rarely convene on Saturdays and Sundays, that leaves 38 weekdays to work before the legislature must adjourn by midnight on May 7.
More than 60 education bills have been introduced so far this year, about two thirds of them in the House. But only five bills of note have gone to the governor, and another 10 have been killed.
A lot of bills have been passed by one committee – usually House or Senate education – and now are parked in one of the appropriations committees. Such spending bills – and measures proposing spending in other areas of state government – will be prioritized and culled by legislative leaders after the March 18 revenue forecasts give lawmakers a better idea how much money they have to play with in the 2014-15 budget.
Based on what survives that thinning, it looks like the Senate Education Committee could be pretty busy in late March and into April, give the larger number of education bills coming from the House than moving in the other direction.
The legislature does have a detailed list of deadlines for when bills are supposed to finish various steps in the process, but those often are waived, and there are separate, later deadlines for bills in the appropriations committees.
And still more bills may be on the way. Measures expected – or rumored – may involve teacher evaluation, early childhood, online education, college scholarships and teacher licensing.
For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the status of key education bills, starting with school finance and key policy measures, then listed alphabetically by topic.
More than half a dozen bills deal with this issue, and they involve not just school funding but also related matters such as enrollment counts, charter school facilities, spending transparency and kindergarten funding. The big measures are House Bill 14-1292, the Student Success Act, and House Bill 14-1298, the annual school finance act. This is complicated stuff – see this story for details of the debate.
The Building Excellent Schools Today construction program also is part of the finance discussion. Bills giving lawmakers greater oversight part of the problem and changing the calculation of local district matches already have gone to the governor. But broader questions about use of BEST revenues are still in play.
Other big issues
Testing is a simmering issue this year. House Bill 14-1202, which started as a district opt-out bill, has been converted into a proposed testing study and is in the House Appropriations inbox.
Two bills address the “data gap” that will be created after the state moves to the new CMAS tests in the spring of 2015. House Bill 14-1182 would give districts and the Department of Education flexibility in district and school accreditation during the testing transition. The bill has passed the House and Senate Education. Another measure, yet to be introduced, would provides some flexibility next year in the teacher evaluation system.
House Bill 14-1268, a controversial proposal to change some of the mutual consent provisions of the evaluation law, is awaiting its first hearing in House Education.
On the higher education front, Senate Bill 14-001, the proposed tuition cap and college and university budget increase, is pending in Senate Appropriations. The measure has wide support and is expected to advance. And House Bill 14-1319, a potentially contentious measure to change the higher education funding formula, was introduced Thursday.
The following sections list bills by number, with brief descriptions and status information.
Boards & districts
- House Bill 14-1118 – Creation of a $2 million fund for grants to rural districts that offer Advanced Placement classes. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1204 – Exemption of some small certain from certain state paperwork requirements. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1291 – Allows charters to hire armed security guards. In House Education
- House Bill 14-1314 – Gives charters a greater role in district mill levy override proposals. In House Education
- House Bill 14-1039 – Requires integration of early childhood data with state K-12 data. In House Education
- House Bill 14-1076 – Proposes a $12.5 million incentive program for quality improvements in preschools. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1124 – Makes certain Native American students eligible for resident tuition rates. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1154 – Equalizes pay rates for full-time and part-time community college faculty at a cost of $86.2 million. In Appropriations
- Senate Bill 14-114 – Allows CSU Global Campus to enroll freshman and sophomore students. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1094 – Creates an August sales tax holiday on purchases of school supplies. Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1156 – Expands eligibility for free school lunches. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1288 – Requires parents to receive health information before opting out of immunizations required for school enrollment. Awaiting House floor debate
- House Bill 14-1301 – Increases funding for Safe Routes to School program. In House Transportation
- House Bill 14-1102 – Increases by up to $6 million funding for gifted and talented student programs. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1131 – Makes cyber bullying a misdemeanor. Passed House
- House Bill 14-1276 – Provides grants for training students in CPR. In Appropriations
- Senate Bill 14-002 – Moves Safe2Tell anonymous tips program to the Department of Law. In Appropriations
- Senate Bill 14-150 – Expands the Colorado Counselor Corps program and increases funding by $5 million. In Appropriations
- House Bill 14-1175 – Requires CDE to conduct a study of minority teacher development, recruitment and retention. In Appropriations
- Senate Bill 14-124 – Creates a $2 million program to train leaders for turnaround schools. In Appropriations
Past the post
The only important policy bill signed into law so far is Senate Bill 14-004, which allows community colleges to offer four-year bachelor of applied sciences degrees in technical and vocational fields. A similar bill died amid acrimony in 2013, and SB 14-004 is a classic example how easily a bill can sail through the legislature if compromises are reached before the session starts.
Two bills making mid-year K-12 funding adjustments also have been signed. Those measures were needed to account for enrollment changes and other factors.
One job lawmakers are prompt about performing every year is killing bills, including ideological measures proposed by members of the minority party. And sometimes legislators ask for their own bills to be killed after figuring out the measures didn’t have support.
Bills that would have created a timeout on implementation of new standards and tests, allowed school staff to carry guns on campus, established a tax credit for private school tuition and paid bonuses to highly effective teachers who worked in low-performing schools all have been “postponed indefinitely,” which means exactly what it sounds like.
House Bill 14-1110, which would have set recording requirements for school board executive sessions, was killed Wednesday at the Senate sponsor’s request.
Measures proposing compensation for school board members, scholarships for early childhood educator training and tweaks to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association also have died.
This story doesn’t reference several technical bills related to education. See the Education Bill Tracker for a full list of this year’s education bills, links to texts and the latest status. The Tracker also shows all the bills that have been killed, when that happened and which committee did the deed.