These are all of the Education bills proposed in the 2018 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, pros, and cons are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Major, Medium and Minor. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!).

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MAJOR

HB18-1002: Rural School District Teaching Fellowship Programs PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1019: Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Accreditation Weighted Factors
HB18-1088: Funding for Full-day Kindergarten
HB18-1130: School District-Authorized Instructors SIGNED
HB18-1189: Expanding Effective Teacher Residency Programs PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1232: New School Funding Distribution Formula
HB18-1269: Parent Notice for Student Safety and Protection PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1309: Programs Addressing Educator Shortages
HB18-1355: Public Education Accountability System PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEE

MEDIUM

HB18-1014: Social Studies Assessment in High Schools KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB18-1197: Student-Centered Pilot Accountability Systems
HB18-1276: Teaching Competent History in Public Schools

MINOR

HB18-1005: Notice To Students of Postsecondary Courses SIGNED
HB18-1052: Exception to 2-year Higher Education Service Areas SIGNED
HB18-1070: Additional Public School Capital Construction Funding PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1095: Educator License Requirements Military Spouses SIGNED
HB18-1134: Use of Colorado Preschool Program Positions SIGNED
HB18-1209: No 529 Account Income Tax Deduction for K-12 Kindergarten Through Twelfth Expenses KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE
HB18-1217: Income Tax Credit for Employer 529 Contributions PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1221: Income Tax Deduction for 529 Account Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Expenses KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB18-1222: Systematic Review of Education Programs KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB18-1266: Career Development Success Program Expansion PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1341: Apprenticeship and Vocational Technical Training PASSED HOUSE
HB18-1367: Leadership Professional Development for School Principals
HB18-1393: Effective Implementation of Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act
HB18-1396: Advanced Placement Exam Fee Grant Program

HB18-1002: Rural School District Teaching Fellowship Programs

Creates a teaching fellowship program for schools who have demonstrated chronic hiring difficulties and financial needs. Approved districts can enter into an agreement with a private institution of higher education to provide a teaching fellow for students in their fourth year of the educator prep program. The district and institution must design an individualized plan for each fellow, the district must commit to hiring the student the fellow if they complete their fellowship year and perform satisfactorily, and the district must pay part of the $10,000 stipend each fellow receives, except for the state will pay 50% of the stipend for 100 fellows, with the higher education institution covering the other 50%. If the fellow receives an employment offer and does not accept it, he or she must repay the amount of the stipend.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

Many Colorado rural school districts face severe teaching shortages. This bill provides an opportunity for a win-win situation: rural districts get additional help in the form of fellows who are closely monitored by established teachers (with the decent chance of getting a full teacher when the fellow graduates) and students get a great chance to get into a classroom. The incentive of not having to pay back the stipend should help these districts keep some of the fellows after graduation. All of this is done at beyond minimal money to the state ($50,000).

Cons

While it is true that rural districts face severe shortages, urban districts can also struggle to hire qualified teachers and this bill leaves them completely out. The educational experience of those with these fellows is also likely to be uneven, some will be fine but some may not be good teachers. And while the incentive should help fellows accept jobs, it won’t necessarily keep them in the district. Nothing in the bill prevents them from leaving to go to a different district as soon as they can.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1002

HB18-1005: Notice To Students of Postsecondary Courses

Currently school districts and charter schools must notify students and their parents of any opportunity for concurrent enrollment in post-secondary courses. This bill adds the requirements that the notice contain information regarding the financial, academic, and career benefits of concurrent enrollment and the school’s timelines for eligibility. It also requires the notice to be at least six weeks prior to the beginning of the enrollment period.

SIGNED

Pros

Many students and parents are unfortunately unaware of the great benefits from concurrent enrollment and/or unaware of the deadlines involved. This bill makes sure that all students and parents have the full picture.

Cons

The bill adds too many hoops for districts to jump through: preparing all of the educational information required and eligibility timelines.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1005

HB18-1014: Social Studies Assessment in High Schools

Removes the requirement that the state assessment for social studies be administered in high school, while keeping it for elementary and middle school.

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Pros

By high school the basics of social studies that all students should know have already been taught. There is no point in testing students again in high school and it takes time away from the basics of math and science that our children need the most when they graduate from high school.

Cons

We already do not do a good enough job of teaching social studies in our schools. Basic civic literacy is poor as is a basic understanding of the country and the world. The last thing we need to do is relax our standards in this area. Other subjects may be more important for jobs, but the job of citizen cannot be overlooked in a democracy.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1014

HB18-1019: Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Accreditation Weighted Factors

Requires the state board to create a weighted system that assigns greater values to high school graduation rates that are based on more rigorous course work requirements for determining annual accreditation.

Pros

Right now all high school diplomas are created equal, which is not fair to schools that do a better job preparing their students for the post-graduation world. Schools with more rigor should be rewarded, which will help push schools with less rigor to keep up.

Cons

This bill will unfairly target poor communities, which do not have the same resources as wealthier communities and therefore will have a harder time creating more “rigor”. A high school diploma is a high school diploma, a certification that a student has achieved all necessary course work to graduate. For the purposes of the student, GPA, honors, and AP classes are more than enough distinction. For the purposes of the school, there are other measures designed to check on post-graduate success. There is no reason to change this one.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1019

HB18-1052: Exception to 2-year Higher Education Service Areas

Currently a two-year institution of higher education can provide a concurrent enrollment program or course to local high school or equivalent education providers that are within the higher education institution’s college service area (defined by the state). This bill allows these concurrent programs to happen with high school or equivalent providers that are not in the college service area if the two-year institution in its area has declined to offer the program.

SIGNED

Pros

This bill increases the flexibility for two-year higher education institutions to offer advanced programs and/or classes. It helps high school or equivalent providers branch out to find these programs and only comes into effect if the institution within the college service area has declined.

Cons

Increasing the distance between to two increases the chances of failure. If they are far apart, any agreement is going to have to be based on remote learning, which may be beyond the skillset of some high school age students.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1052

HB18-1070: Additional Public School Capital Construction Funding

Currently the first $40 million of the marijuana tax fund is credited to public school capital construction assistance. This bill changes that to whichever is greater: $40 million or 90% of the revenue collected.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

The fund’s primary purpose is to fund schools and in particular school construction. This is how legalization was presented to voters. The success of the marijuana industry means we need to tweak the formula to make sure the capital construction fund is getting most of the marijuana tax money.

Cons

Marijuana tax money is being put to work all over the state in many needed areas. This bill will starve some of these efforts and force the state to either end them entirely or take money from somewhere else. There is no such thing as free money, putting more money into school capital construction takes it from somewhere else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1070

HB18-1088: Funding for Full-day Kindergarten

Gradually increases the funding for kindergarten from the current ½ day level to full day by 2023.

Pros

There is an avalanche of research which shows that early childhood education is critical for success later in life. Education gaps that exist before 1st grade are very difficult to close, and any money spent here is an investment in our future. In addition, this will save Colorado working families money: many have to pay out of their own pockets to cover the remaining ½ day that is currently not funded, or pay for child-care solutions for that period. One study in 2015 showed a two working parent household could save over $2,000.

Cons

The state already owes schools more than $800 million. This bill does not give any new funding streams for these additional requirements and would require cuts from somewhere else. A similar bill last year was estimated to cost an additional $42 million per stepped up year, prior to accounting for inflation. That would end up being over $200 million. We don’t have the funds to do this.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1088

HB18-1095: Educator License Requirements Military Spouses

Exempts military spouses from requirement that out-of-state licenses must have three years of continuous teaching service to qualify for in-state compatibility.

SIGNED

Pros

Military spouses don’t have the same luxuries as the rest of us when it comes to continuous work. They have to move constantly. They must still have three years of experience to qualify.

Cons

Military families are not the only ones that move around, this disadvantages teachers who have spouses that have to move frequently for work who are not in the military.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1095

HB18-1130: School District-Authorized Instructors

Permits school districts to employ non-licensed teachers if the district is unable to regularly staff licensed teachers in critical shortage areas or unique subject areas. This individual must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in the teaching subject area, must satisfy school district standards, and must submit to a fingerprint-based criminal history record check. They can be employed for up to five years before requiring a license. The bill also authorizes districts to pay over the district’s standard grade if they have significant experience in the subject area.

SIGNED

Pros

We have to face realities in school districts that have chronic teacher shortages. While the goal is always to have a licensed professional, a non-licensed teacher with a degree in the subject that passes criminal background checks is preferable to no one. Five years gives the individual time to achieve their license and ensures the situation will not go on indefinitely. The ability to pay higher helps these districts capture subject matter experts who may just be starting a career shift into teaching.

Cons

Licensure is a real thing that we require from teachers. Just as we don’t let unlicensed doctors operate because we can’t find enough doctors in an area, so we should not let unlicensed teachers spend all day with our children because we cannot find a licensed teacher. Licensure is proof that the instructor can do the job, we all know that a college degree is not the same thing. As for pay, an individual who does not have a license but does have significant experience in the subject area needs to earn their stripes as an actual teacher first.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1130

HB18-1134: Use of Colorado Preschool Program Positions

From the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission. If a district chooses to use early childhood at-risk enhancement positions to enroll children in the district’s full-day kindergarten program, the children must satisfy at least one of the eligibility requirements of the Colorado preschool program.

SIGNED

Pros

The preschool program uses eligibility criteria to help ensure that the program provides early learning opportunities for the students who may benefit the most from a high-quality early learning experience, and who may also face the most barriers to accessing one. These criteria currently apply in cases where slots are used to provide access to preschool, and this bill would ensure that the same criteria apply when a slot is used to provide access to a full day of kindergarten. We want to make sure these slots are going to children who truly need them and would fully benefit.

Cons

While they are only separated by one year, it is still not appropriate to use preschool program eligibility requirements for kindergarten.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1134

HB18-1189: Expanding Effective Teacher Residency Programs

Creates a teacher residency expansion program (similar to medical residency school, educators are trained in the classroom alongside a mentor and take graduate school classes at a local higher ed institution) in the department of education to facilitate expansion of teacher residency programs across the state through best practices, effective strategies, and critical components of effective residency programs. Implementation will occur through a pilot program with an institution of higher learning and an alternative teacher program that are already operating an effective residency program.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

The number of students enrolling and graduating from teacher preparation programs in Colorado continues to decline. Building partnerships between teacher preparation programs and local education will strengthen the pipeline of candidates from high school to postsecondary preparation to teaching in the state.

Cons

While this model is a promising alternative path for training teachers, there isn't anything here to necessarily keep residents in Colorado after they complete the program.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1189

HB18-1197: Student-Centered Pilot Accountability Systems

Authorizes school districts or charter schools to create pilot performance measurement programs to determine school and educator performance with a broader viewpoint than just the standardized tests and encompassing student attitude and disposition, the professional culture within the school, and resource allocation. Changes percentage of teacher and principal evaluation from at least 50% based on student growth to at least 20% but not more than 50%.

Pros

The existing system is too narrow to provide a complete, accurate picture of each student’s level of academic achievement. Opening this up to experimentation in the school districts is likely to achieve a better model that we can then leverage statewide.

Cons

We should not be experimenting with something as important as our kids’ education. A pilot that achieves poor results will affect every child that went into that school district while the experiment was running.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1197

HB18-1209: No 529 Account Income Tax Deduction for K-12 Kindergarten Through Twelfth Expenses

The federal tax bill last year allowed distributions from 529 accounts (setup to save money for college tuition tax-free) for elementary or secondary school expenses tax free. This bill clarifies that these are not allowed at the state level in Colorado and that only higher education expenses qualify.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

529s are for a very specific purpose: saving money to send kids to college. They are not for sheltering money to send kids to private schools when free public ones are an option.

Cons

Quality education is important through a child’s life and expanding 529s to lower levels of education makes sense. This isn’t free money and it can’t be spent on anything but education. All it does is give parents who want to spend money on their children’s education a tax-free way to save for it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1209

HB18-1217: Income Tax Credit for Employer 529 Contributions

Creates a state income tax credit for employers that make donations to 529 savings accounts owned by their employees equal to 20% of the donation. Maximum of $500 per employee.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

College is becoming more and more expensive and 529s are a great way for families to grow money tax free over time to help pay for it. This bill will incentivize employers to help.

Cons

This bill might provide an incentive for employers to change their benefit structure not by adding new payments to 529 accounts but by reducing some other outlay, salary, bonus, etc. that employees are counting on, since straight salary isn’t giving the company a tax cut. 529s are great, but employees need what they are making now to live on. This also sets up companies to discriminate either against employees without children (who have to earn less than their fellows with children in the form of these 529 donations) or those with children, who have to put part of their earnings toward 529s instead of taking it home.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1217

HB18-1221: Income Tax Deduction for 529 Account Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Expenses

The federal tax bill last year allowed distributions from 529 accounts (setup to save money for college tuition tax-free) for elementary or secondary school expenses tax free. This bill extends these to the state level in Colorado.

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Pros

Quality education is important through a child’s life and expanding 529s to lower levels of education makes sense. This isn’t free money and it can’t be spent on anything but education. All it does is give parents who want to spend money on their children’s education a tax-free way to save for it.

Cons

529s are for a very specific purpose: saving money to send kids to college. They are not for sheltering money to send kids to private schools when free public ones are an option.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1221

HB18-1222: Systematic Review of Education Programs

Directs the state auditor, a nonpartisan resource, to setup a process of systematic review of education programs enacted by the legislature and report back to the assembly on how well the programs are or are not working.

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Pros

The legislature has obviously meant well when it has enacted at times costly and time intensive programs in education, but we need to see if they are actually working or if there is duplication and waste going on. Right now there is no periodic review of these programs.

Cons

Untangling exactly what effect one specific program is having in an environment as complicated as education is extremely difficult, particularly when there are multiple programs happening at once that may influence each other. There just isn’t a way to accurately measure what is happening.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1222

HB18-1232: New School Funding Distribution Formula

This is an extremely complicated bill, it creates an entirely new funding formula for the state’s schools. It was designed by the superintendents of the state’s school system over the past two years. It requires approval by the voters at the ballot of a tax increase for the purpose of funding schools to go into effect. It gives districts more money for students who have more needs, English language learners, disabled, gifted and talented by moving it directly into the per-pupil calculation rather than the current flat amount which has to be manually increased. It also increases the funding eligibility for at-risk students to include students receiving reduced fee lunches (185% of poverty line), not just free lunches (135% of poverty line). It would require an estimated $1.4 to $1.6 billion in additional funding to implement.

Pros

The state already owes the schools $828 million dollars and has underfunded education by $6.67 billion since the recession hit in 2009. We consistently rank near the bottom of per-pupil funding (bottom ten in 2015). The current funding mechanism hasn’t seriously been changed since 1994 and everyone knows we are overdue to overhaul it. It will only go into effect if voters approve increasing our taxes, so this isn’t going to take money away from any other state agency. This is what our school superintendents (93% of the entire state total) are telling us we need to do, let’s get the ball rolling.

Cons

While this doesn’t do anything without voter approval of a tax increase, it does block changing the formula to fit within our existing resources if we pass this and wait for a tax increase. The fact is that we don’t need to increase taxes in this state, we’re doing just fine economically with taxes as they are. If the schools need more funding, the legislature needs to better spend what we already have.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1232

HB18-1266: Career Development Success Program Expansion

Extends this program for five years and removes its designation as a pilot program. The program provides $1,000 to each school that has a student successfully complete an industry-certificate, internship, pre-apprenticeship program, or computer science AP course. The non-AP eligible items are extensive and go across just about all industries. The bill adds a new specification that no one school can take more than 10% of the money awarded and expands some of the reporting requirements from the department of education to the legislature. The minimum $1 million annual appropriation is kept in place.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

This is a great way to encourage students to take steps while still in high school to prepare for life after high school. In particular, there is a long list of jobs that do not require college degrees but do require industry certifications or apprenticeship. This is the avenue most non-college kids take and getting them started early in that track helps everyone. The 10% limit prevents the better organized districts from vacuuming up all of the rewards; the Cherry Creek school district grabbed 25% of the industry certificates in the last reported school year.

Cons

By rewarding the schools, the incentive structure encourages schools to put undue pressure on the students to participate in these programs. We’re putting pressure on 14 or 15 year-olds, and in some cases, perhaps shortchanging their belief in their ability to get into college by shunting them into a trade-track.

From the other side

Generally pilot programs are small undertakings to decide if something works. If it does, then the program is expanded. This bill removes the pilot designation but does not expand the program. While it is true that the legislature can budget more than $1 million if it chooses, the minimum funding should be raised to cover more than just 1,000 students. The 2016-17 report showed that 470 internships, 86 construction pre-apprenticeships, and 743 AP computer science courses were not funded because 1,807 industry certificates had already taken up all of the money.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1266

HB18-1269: Parent Notice for Student Safety and Protection

Requires schools to notify parents of charges brought against an employee or formal employee that has or had contact with students if the charges would require the denial, suspension, or revocation of a teacher’s license if the employee was a teacher.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

Ensuring the safety of school children is one the primary responsibilities of state and local government. Students and parents must be assured that criminal behavior that is harmful to children is reported and dealt with in an appropriate and transparent manner. Parents have the right to know this information and act accordingly.

Cons

This completely violates the due process of the accused, who will be publicly named and presumably fired in most cases due to pressure from the community all before having any sort of trial. This may also result in wrongful termination lawsuits if someone has their name cleared after being fired. We have a presumption of innocence in this country that this bill violates.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1269

HB18-1276: Teaching Competent History in Public Schools

Adds Asian-Americans to the list of minority cultures whose contributions to American (and the bill adds, state) history be taught in all public schools. The bill also adds the word “must” in front of “be taught.” It reduces the gap between community forums to address these standards from 10 years to 2 years. It also creates a history, culture, and civil government in education commission, which will make recommendations to the state board of education and department of education to be used at the state’s mandated six year curriculum review. Commission consists of 15 members, with a requirement for the majority to have classroom experience, and representation from minority communities, educators, and school boards/superintendents.

Pros

Current law curiously puts Colorado state history outside of the requirement to teach about the contributions of minority cultures to our history. This bill fixes that (along with fixing the omission of Asian-Americans) as well as puts stronger structures in place to make sure that all Colorado students are getting a well-rounded (and un-whitewashed) education in the state and country’s history.

Cons

This is injecting too much PCism into our education system. We of course should teach history as it happened, but we should not be bending over backwards to make sure every little thing that minority groups did is highlighted. The most important stuff, regardless of who it involved, must come first.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1276

HB18-1309: Programs Addressing Educator Shortages

Creates a grow your own educator program partnership between school districts and institutes of higher education. The higher education student works at the district under a teacher with a license in the student’s final year of the program and receives payment from the district of their tuition for their final 36 credit hours. In exchange, the student must work in the same district after graduation for three years after completion or must repay the district’s tuition aid. The state will operate a grant program to help these districts cover the tuition costs.

Establishes a new license for teachers called teacher of record, for those who have completed all requirements for a degree except for in-class field work requirements. These licenses are only available to those who work in a district that has identified a critical teacher shortage and has a vacant position that no one else has applied to. The license is only valid for two years.

Extends the special services intern authorization beyond the current one year to two years only if the intern has not completed their program due to unforeseen circumstances or hardship. Expands the school counselor definition to include special services interns.

Pros

We have to face realities in school districts that have chronic teacher shortages. This bill provides an opportunity for a win-win situation: districts get additional help in the form of students who are closely monitored by established teachers (with the decent chance of getting a full teacher when the fellow graduates) and students get a great chance to get into a classroom. While the goal is always to have a licensed professional, a non-licensed teacher with everything but the classroom experience is better than no one. Two years gives the individual time to achieve their license and ensures the situation will not go on indefinitely. The incentive of not having to pay back the tuition should help these districts keep some of the teachers after graduation.

Cons

Licensure is a real thing that we require from teachers. Just as we don’t let unlicensed doctors operate because we can’t find enough doctors in an area, so we should not let unlicensed teachers spend all day with our children because we cannot find a licensed teacher. Licensure is proof that the instructor can do the job and the classroom experience part of it is one of the most important parts. And while the incentive should help keep the teachers for as long as it is required, it won’t necessarily keep them in the district. Nothing in the bill prevents them from leaving to go to a different district as soon as they can.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1309

HB18-1341: Apprenticeship and Vocational Technical Training

Creates an apprenticeship resource directory with information on each apprenticeship program in the state including the application process, requirements for enrollment, costs, and program outcomes.

PASSED HOUSE

Pros

This brings a vast amount of information all together into one place, which should greatly help those looking for apprenticeships in a variety of fields.

Cons

This puts extra work on the backs of these apprenticeship programs, which aren't likely to have lots of extra money or time sitting around.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1341

HB18-1355: Public Education Accountability System

Changes the criteria the department of education must use to assign accreditation categories to schools and alters the process for schools that are accredited with priority improvement plan or lower. It removes the current statutory criteria rules and sets the rulemaking ability with the department of education, under the same broad parameters. Changes the current five year rule (by which if a school does not improve out of the priority plan level for five years more drastic action is required) so that the timer resets if a school gets two years in a row of a higher accreditation level. Requires the department to make all information it has for turnaround best practices to the schools. Broadens what innovations schools can undertake if they are part of the state’s grant program for struggling schools to include converting to a charter school, contracting with an approved private entity to run the school, and closing the school.

PASSED HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

This bill complexity boils down to three basic things: rules are better set by governing body than by statute for something as complex as education performance, schools that achieve a turnaround should not be punished for past poor performance if they slip again, and we must do more to help schools that are struggling. All three of these make perfect sense: we need more flexibility to change rules on the fly, two straight years of positive performance should erase the ticking clock, and we need to do everything possible to help a school before deciding it is beyond help.

Cons

Vesting this rule making ability in unelected officials removes the citizen’s power to influence what our exact standards are for school performance. It is the job of the legislature to understand this complicated area and make the best choice. If the choice proves poor, then it can be changed. But at least there is accountability to the citizens. Two straight years of better performance should not be enough for us to forget the potentially four straight years of poor performance. It is possible under this setup that a school can hover around the “bad” line for years, flitting above it enough to reset the clock before dropping down below it again.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1355

HB18-1367: Leadership Professional Development for School Principals

Creates a leadership pilot program for K-12 principals. Directs the department of education to create and implement the program. It must include identifying high-quality principals and the opportunity for other principals in the state to interact with them in such a way that they can learn the critical practices of the high-quality principals. Report due in 2021, at which time the legislature will decide if the program should continue.

Pros

One of the most cited factors for teachers leaving a school is the quality of the school’s leadership. As we face critical teacher shortages around the state, we must look to the high achievers to help mentor those that need it. It’s a simple and effective way to spread best practices around the state. The voluntary nature of the program will set it up to succeed: people tend to be more invested in choices they make rather than things that are forced upon them. Vesting the department of education with the actual construction, rather than using legislative fiat, also makes it more likely to be successful. Trust the experts.

Cons

This bill sets up a structure whereby the department of education selects those it deems to be the “high-quality” principals, without any outside guidance on what this should mean, and then all of the other principals are offered the opportunity to apply for the program to go learn from their better performing peers. What this ignores is human nature: most of don’t think we’re bad at our job. Furthermore, we tend to think people who are singled out as being better than us in our field don’t deserve it. Right or wrong, that’s how people work. So this well-intentioned plan is likely to fail and cost us taxpayer money in the process.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1367

HB18-1393: Effective Implementation of Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act

Makes some administrative and adds clarity to the existing law, wherein the state adopts an approved list of reading assessments and advisory lists of literacy programming and development, including a review process every four years for assessments and two years for advisory lists, requiring appeal process to include appeals from schools, and that process for determining these lists be evidence-based and include consultation with local education providers. It also adds some detail to the distribution process for the early literacy fund for schools, 75% of the total amount based on per-pupil K-3 who have severe reading deficiencies and 25% based on per-pupil in K-3 who were once identified with severe deficiencies, are still below grade level, and are receiving services.

Pros

The current financial setup of the program allocates money based only on those determined to have severe deficiencies but the program also needs to work for those who are still trying to catch-up.

Cons

The point of this program is for kids with severe reading deficiencies so that is where the money goes. This is a zero-sum game with the money, more money toward kids who had a problem but are no longer designated as severe, even if they aren’t quite yet at grade level, is less money for kids who have a severe problem and need more help.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1393

HB18-1396: Advanced Placement Exam Fee Grant Program

Creates a grant program in the department of education to subsidize or eliminate the AP exam fees for low-income high school students.

Pros

AP exams cost $94 each. That can put them out of reach for low-income students. They can be enormously helpful in obtaining college credit to help students do more in less time at college and of course help with the admissions process.

Cons

There are already federal and AP mechanisms to lower costs for students by up to $32 dollars per exam. This is sufficient, given our current massive education budget issues.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB18-1396

SB18-004: Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten

Gradually increases the funding for kindergarten students from the current half-day to full-day by 2022. It funds this increase by a ballot referendum, to be placed on the 2018 ballot. This referendum authorizes the state to retain and spend revenue beyond the limit prescribed by the Colorado taxpayer’s bill of rights (TABOR). Any funds leftover after funding full-day kindergarten will stay with the preK-12 education and be spent proportionally.

*This legislation has been sent to the Senate “Kill” committee, State Affairs*

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

There is an avalanche of research which shows that early childhood education is critical for success later in life. Education gaps that exist before 1st grade are very difficult to close, and any money spent here is an investment in our future. In addition, this will save Colorado working families money: many have to pay out of their own pockets to cover the remaining ½ day that is currently not funded, or pay for child-care solutions for that period. One study in 2015 showed a two working parent household could save over $2,000.

Cons

This bill is a thinly disguised end-around to destroy TABOR, a voter-approved amendment that has served Colorado well since its implementation in 1992. TABOR forces the legislature to give taxpayers back their own money rather than increasing the size of the government. Fund an increase like full-day kindergarten with our existing budget, which is over $30 billion dollars, instead of in essence increasing taxes on Coloradans.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-004

SB18-008: Reward Access to Arts Education in Public Schools

Adds the arts as a performance indicator for public schools and the state charter institute. This measures the access provided to courses or educational programs in dance, drama and theater, music, and visual arts. The state board of education is required to adopt rules by which schools, districts, and the institute can receive additional credit toward accreditation or performance ratings based on the arts metric.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

The arts are a vital part of learning but unfortunately are all too often the first thing cut when schools and districts have to make funding decisions. This is in large part due to the fact that there is no reward for having strong arts programs. This bill would simply reward schools and districts that give students access to these programs.

Cons

The arts are a nice luxury item, but not required to give our children the knowledge they need to succeed. It is always unfortunate when arts programs are cut, but better these cuts than cuts in more essential areas. If schools are rewarded for having arts programs, they are more likely to keep them over other, worthier things.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-008

SB18-011: Students Excused From Taking State Assessments

Clarifies that local education providers can determine if the parent excuse from taking state assessments must be in writing. It also prohibits local education providers from prohibiting the student from participating in any activities or receiving any other form of reward that recognizes participation in state assessments. Local providers are already barred from punishing students who are excused, this just clarifies that the ban includes any rewards the school receives for its participation in state assessments.

SIGNED

Pros

Allows local providers to determine what works best for them in terms of excuses in writing. It also protects students from being excluded from school activities.

Cons

Patchwork system of requirements may lead to confusion in terms of written excuses or not. This bill also allows students to reap rewards of benefits they actively did not earn by not participating.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-011

SB18-012: Military Enlistment School Performance Indicator

Adds enlistment in the military as performance measure for post-secondary and workforce readiness indicators for public high schools and the state charter institute. Enlistment will be given equal weight with attending a post-secondary institution.

PASSED SENATE

Pros

Current law wrongly discriminates against military service as a valid post high-school career path. This punishes schools who help steer kids suited for this path into the military. This bill fixes this error and appropriately rewards schools that have higher proportions of military enlistment which are currently being punished for it.

Cons

While there is no dispute that serving in the military is a commitment to be honored, school districts should not be in the business of steering kids into that sacrifice. This bill might incentivize schools to steer kids with marginal post-secondary opportunities into a career the kids might later regret.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-012

SB18-013: Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act

Expands the current eligibility for no-charge lunches by adding 6th through 8th grades. Funding for these grades only is capped by a dollar, not percentage, amount and is not tied to inflation or any other automatic increase.

Pros

This bill simply takes what the state is already doing to ensure those that cannot afford school lunch still get a healthy meal and extends it through middle school. Growing kids need to eat, cannot be expected to work themselves, and should not be punished for their income status (which they have nothing to do with). The fact that the current program ends after Elementary school is a capricious line that does not reflect reality.

Cons

While we feel compassion for those less fortunate, the government should not be feeding kids. There are many low-price options for lunches and parents need to provide for their children. This bill extends this wrong notion further, and at further cost. While it is true that the increases are capped, we all know that if the needs exceed the cap, the cap will quickly be dispensed with. Surely high school students will be next.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-013

SB18-083: Education Income Tax Credits for Nonpublic School

Establishes a private school tuition income tax credit for whatever is less of: the tuition paid or scholarship provided or 50% of the previous year’s state per pupil average revenue. This is cut in half for half-time attendance. Bill also gives homeschooling a $1,000 tax credit for full-time and $500 for half-time.

PASSED SENATE

Pros

Every parent should be able to make the decision to send their child to the educational format that best suits their children. Those who choose an option beyond free public school face additional expenses for educating their children, which can mean that some parents are unable to take advantage of these opportunities. This bill will make it easier for any parent to choose what is best for their child and will lighten the load in some public schools.

Cons

With no means-testing in this bill, the benefits are going to wildly skew to the wealthy, who can already afford to send their children to private school without them. Some parents and kids will make the decision to exit public schools with this credit, but not enough to offset the lost income. The fiscal note for an identical bill last year found that, when fully phased in, this bill would save $449.8 million dollars for schools but cost the state $664.7 million dollars in revenue. A net loss.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-083

SB18-085: Financial Incentives for Education In Rural Areas

Expands current stipends for rural teachers furthering their continuing education (max of $6,000 each) in exchange for teaching at least three years in district from 20 to 60 and expands qualifying continuing education certifications eligible.

PASSED SENATE

Pros

Many Colorado rural school districts face severe teaching shortages. This bill provides an opportunity for a win-win situation: more rural educators get support for expanding their teaching abilities and rural areas get better qualified teachers.

Cons

While it is true that rural districts face severe shortages, urban districts can also struggle to hire qualified teachers and this bill leaves them completely out. And while the incentive should help teachers stay in the district, it won’t necessarily keep them in the district. Nothing in the bill prevents them from leaving to go to a different district as soon as they can.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-085

SB18-118: Local School Board Authority Over Charter Schools

Currently the state board of education can overrule local school boards on applications for or revocations of charter school licenses after a 2nd appeal (the 1st appeal forces the local board to reconsider). This bill removes that 2nd appeal, so that the local school board has the final decision, not the state.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

Our entire public education system is setup around local school boards deciding what is best for their area, not the state coming in and overruling a decision as fundamental as whether or not a charter school should be allowed to operate. This bill restores that balance and removes the possibility of pro-charter school state boards overruling local interests. If the citizens of a local board are not happy with the board’s decisions, they can always change the board via election.

Cons

The entire notion of an appeal is that you can appeal to someone who didn’t make the original decision. This bill removes that other source that can balance against potentially biased or improper decision making. While it is true that local boards make many decisions in education, there has always been a role for the both the state and federal governments to make sure our children get the education they deserve. Having the state government be a check against potential local board biases toward charter schools is entirely appropriate and has served the state well.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-118

SB18-147: Educator Loan Forgiveness Program

Changes teacher loan forgiveness program name to educator loan forgiveness and revises the eligibility criteria for the program. It removes the high poverty school qualifier that was previously required teacher and instead just makes qualification based on rural and content area shortages, with the priority being: schools that meet both criteria, rural schools, and finally content area shortage schools.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

The previous poverty requirement left out too many rural and remote area schools that still have problems with teacher shortages. This fixes that problem.

Cons

By removing the emphasis on poverty, the bill runs the risk of putting poorer schools at the back of the line if they are just content shortage schools. These are the places least able to overcome any inherent disadvantages based on their location.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-147

SB18-151: Colorado Department of Education Bullying Policies Research

Requires the department of education to research what other states are doing to combat bullying and to develop a model prevention and education policy.

PASSED

Pros

Bullying is a serious problem in our schools. Beyond the life-long scars it can leave, it also leads to potentially dangerous situations. Some children who are bullied turn to violence. This lets the state take advantage of best practices across the country and bring them to Colorado.

Cons

This is a waste of the department’s time and resources. Bullying has existed since people have and no set of written practices is going to stamp it out. Because it has been around for so long, we already know what the most effective anti-bullying techniques are and can implement them without the fuss.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-151

SB18-159: Innovation School Operating as a Community School

Currently public schools can become an innovation school by having an innovation plan approved by its local school board. This is generally done when schools are facing state intervention due to poor performance. This bill allows the school to also designate itself as a community school, which means in the main that it will do an annual asset and needs assessment of and by the community that engages at least 75% of the families, students, and educators in the community. Community schools also typically operate a little more like charter schools, with extended hours and emphasis on after-school enrichment.

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Pros

Community schools are an old idea enjoying a resurgence in education circles with the support of teachers unions and other advocates. These schools often include an extended school day with after-school enrichment, culturally relevant curriculum, significant outreach to parents, and an emphasis on community partnerships. This bill would define these types of schools for the first time in Colorado and make it explicit that an innovation school can be a community school.

Cons

Community schools are trying to improve the things beyond their control, things that are outside of the school, rather than focusing on improving the school itself. Schools are also already free to choose this path if they wish, this law may lead to the state directing more schools to choose this path.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-159

SB18-160: Charter School Induction and Alternative Licensure Program

Allows charter schools to operate the same induction programs for teachers, special service providers, principals, and administrators, and alternative licensure programs for teachers and principals, who do not hold professional licenses as public schools.

SIGNED

Pros

These programs already exist and operate for public schools, so they are in place today in our classrooms. There is no reason why charter schools should be excluded from this manner of getting quality educators who do not hold professional licenses.

Cons

These programs are designed to help public schools deal with teacher shortages, surely the entire point of the charter school is that it is designed not to have to worry about such shortages and thus we should not let them cut corners.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-160

SB18-215: Additional Funding for Small Rural Schools

Gives an addition $10 million to small rural school districts, to be distributed on a per pupil basis.

Pros

Small rural districts are hit harder than the rest of the state by funding difficulties, as they do not have the same resources that larger districts do. They also have more trouble attracting teachers, and could use the extra money to make it more attractive financially to work in the district.

Cons

This is simply not how we appropriate money to schools. There is a formula for distribution that takes into account a number of factors. This bill circumvents that process. The entire state’s school districts are underfunded, so while it is true that small rural districts need more money, it’s also true that all of our school districts need more money, that many of our schools have trouble attracting teachers, and we should not discriminate against students in all other school districts just because they don’t live in a small rural district, who have fewer students in their charge than larger districts.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-215

SB18-228: Improving School Choice in Traditional Schools

Currently school districts can only transport students from an adjacent district as part of the state’s school choice program (or reimburse a parent for transportation from an adjacent district). This bill removes that restriction entirely. It also requires open enrollment periods of at least four weeks, allows students to apply to five different schools within a district with ranked choice, requires a standardized application format in a district, allows online applications, and requires decisions by June 15 of each school year.

PASSED SENATE

Pros

Colorado has many different school models and curricula and parents are in the best position to determine what school models and curricula are the best fit for their child’s academic needs. Open enrollment should therefore be as free of barriers as possible. School choice allows freedom for parents from their local school district, it is one of the greatest weapons in our arsenal to combat the cycle of poverty.

Cons

School choice can force struggling schools into death spirals, as their local population opts out (and no one opts in), they lose the little funding they already have and cannot improve. The short-term aim is admirable: don’t force kids into subpar schools, but the long-term results are devastating: we can’t send every child to an above average school: it’s literally impossible. The desire to do this further widens the gap between schools and we end up with fewer schools altogether. In addition, removing any restrictions at all on geography means that in theory, the school district is on the hook for transporting any student from any part of the state to another part of the state. There would be nothing in statute to reject such an arrangement. In practice, we might see kids wanting transportation across the entirety of metro Denver and our schools having to pay for it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB18-228