These are all of the Education bills proposed in the 2020 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, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about 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.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor, Minor+, and Technical. 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!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

House

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

MEGA

HB20-1269 Create School Safety Account And Related Tax Credits KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

MAJOR

HB20-1111 Parent Authority To Require Educational Reforms KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1418 Public School Finance PASSED AMENDED

MEDIUM

HB20-1053 Supports For Early Childhood Educator Workforce PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB20-1125 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1128 Educator Education Requirements Special Education SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1204 Tax Deduction For Donation To Scholarship Organization KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1231 Amend Programs Addressing Educator Shortages KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1238 Safe And Healthy Learning Environments For Students KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1240 Early College Program And P-tech School Expansion KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1276 Individualized Student Degree Programs KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1295 Education Accountability And Accreditation Systems Audit KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

MINOR+

HB20-1015 Future Educator Pathways Grant Program KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1016 Increase Quality In Early Childhood Education Programs KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1127 Extend Public Employees' Retirement Association Retiree Work After Retirement Limit PASSED
HB20-1135 Replace High School Social Studies Assessment PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED
HB20-1288 Increase Curriculum Transparency School Literacy KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1312 Behavioral Health Training Requirements Educator License PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB20-1005 Enhance Safe2Tell KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1007 Diverse Kindergarten Through 12th Grade Educator Workforce Report KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1011 Helping Others Manage Early Childhood Act KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1032 Timing K-12 Education Standards Review PASSED AMENDED
HB20-1034 Income Tax Deduction For 529 Account K-12 Kindergarten Through 12th-grade Expenses KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB20-1058 Behavior Analysts In Public Schools KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB20-1062 Colorado Student Free Expression Law SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED
HB20-1185 Sunset Colorado Kids Outdoors Advisory Council SIGNED INTO LAW
HB20-1235 Colorado Department Of Education Support For Family Engagement Practices KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR
HB20-1300 Changes To Local School Food Purchasing Program SIGNED INTO LAW
HB20-1301 Electronic Attendance In School District Board Meeting SIGNED INTO LAW
HB20-1336 Holocaust And Genocide Studies In Public Schools PASSED AMENDED
HB20-1357 Media Literacy Implementation KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

TECHNICAL

HB20-1043 Income Tax Credit For Early Childhood Education Fix KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Senate

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

MEGA

SB20-074 Bonuses For Highly Effective Teachers KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

MAJOR

SB20-015 Student Access To Transportation To Other Schools KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-027 School District School Safety Plans KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-089 Educator Pay Raise Fund KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR

MEDIUM

SB20-014 Excused Absences In Public Schools For Behavioral Health SIGNED INTO LAW
SB20-050 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-052 Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB20-066 Highly Effective Teachers And Low-Performing Schools KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-111 School Transportation Grant Program KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-149 Automatic Law Waivers For Rural School Districts
SB20-185 The Colorado Imagination Library Program PASSED AMENDED
SB20-219 Lease-purchase Issuance For Capital Construction PASSED AMENDED

MINOR+

SB20-016 Notify If School Employee Gives Drugs To Students KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
SB20-073 No 529 Account Income Tax Deduction for K-12 Expenses KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB20-131 Reimbursement To P-tech Schools For College Costs KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

MINOR

SB20-009 Expand Adult Education Grant Program PASSED AMENDED
SB20-023 Colorado Working Group On School Safety PASSED SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (Magnitude change)
SB20-072 Human Sexuality Education Notification Requirement KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE
SB20-081 School Information For Apprenticeship Directory SIGNED INTO LAW
SB20-095 Middle School Students Concurrent Enrollment Information PASSED AMENDED
SB20-103 Common Guidelines School District Open Enrollment KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB20-124 School Construction Guideline Utility Consultation PASSED AMENDED
SB20-137 FERPA Waiver For Behavioral Health Services KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
SB20-175 Assessment Score On A Student's Transcript PASSED
SB20-184 Add To Public School Financial Literacy Standards KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

TECHNICAL

HB20-1005 Enhance Safe2Tell (Fields (D), Lundeen (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Van Winkle (R)]

From the School Safety Committee

AMENDED: Significant

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: $50,000
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal: Tweak Safe2Tell program by requiring more standardized procedures, altering flow of calls received by program ensuring calls can get to crisis operators if necessary, and mandating advertising to public.

Description:

Removes requirement for Safe2Tell to provide educational materials to preschools. Requires all texts and calls to be received initially by a crisis operator and then routed appropriately if they are not a crisis (opposite of current setup) Requires development of process to ensure that any calls related to mental health or substance abuse get routed to a crisis operator as necessary. Requires Safe2Tell to align its processes and procedures for tips via all communication methods, and conduct an annual advertising campaign regarding the program. Bill also allows attorney general to disclose to law enforcement personnel any materials or information gained through the program to prevent imminent physical harm to someone.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

By definition time is limited in a crisis, so it makes sense to route calls through crisis operators first and then triage as necessary rather than the other way around. It also makes sense to ensure that the process for receiving a tip is the same regardless of the communication method by which it was received. Finally, Safe2Tell finds that advertising is effective in boosting usage of the program, but that it is stretched to do so. Mandating it legislatively should give it more ability to secure additional advertising funding.

Arguments Against:

Usually crisis operators are more highly trained and you have fewer of them. Unloading all calls onto them first may cause workflow difficulties and make it harder for them to deal with actual crises.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1005

HB20-1007 Diverse Kindergarten Through 12th Grade Educator Workforce Report (Fields (D), Lundeen (D)) [Coleman (D), Buentello (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: $7,400
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Study ways to increase the diversity of our educator workforce.

Description:

Directs the departments of higher education and education to convene a working group to investigate barriers to the preparation, recruitment, and retention of a diverse educator workforce and to recommend strategies for overcoming these barriers. Report due to the legislature by October 2021. Requires the existing state report on outcomes of teacher preparation programs to include percentage of graduates who passed assessments on their first attempt and to disaggregate the data by gender, race, and ethnicity. Requires this report to be posted online.

Additional Information:

Workgroup must include but is not limited to:

  • Representative of department of higher education
  • Representative of department of education
  • Deans of teacher preparation programs at state institutions of higher learning
  • Directors of alternative teacher programs
  • Public school teachers eligible for student loan relief Representatives from community colleges, public school teachers, and charter school teachers
  • Principals or school leaders, including schools with a diverse workforce
  • Graduates of teacher preparation programs
  • Subject matter experts
  • Non-profits with expertise in this area

Workgroup can consider:

  • Data and recommendations from a 2014 report titled Keeping Up With the Kids: Increasing Minority Teacher Representation in Colorado
  • Effective strategies to build a strong local pipeline for diverse students who may be considering becoming educators
  • How educator preparation programs may inhibit or promote success for diverse candidates
  • Strategies for lifting people engaged in the profession but not licensed into licensure
  • If partnerships between districts and institutions that both serve minority populations will help
  • Effective strategies, including financial incentives, to retain existing diverse educators, including in hard-to-staff schools

Auto-Repeal: July 2022

Arguments For:

Students benefit from being exposed to a diverse group of educators, and in particular, minority students can benefit greatly from having an educator with a similar background. Numerous research has confirmed this, to cite just one example, a study found that black students who had just one black teacher by 3rd grade were 13% more likely to end up enrolling in college than those with none and those with two black teachers were 32% more likely. There are many more examples of similar data. In addition, some of our boys grow up in households with no male role model. A male teacher, particularly at a young age, can make a big difference in these boy’s lives by demonstrating a positive male role model. This is the world we live in, so instead of closing our eyes and pretending the background of the teacher does not matter, we need to find ways to get a more diverse group of educators. In Colorado, 77% of all teachers are women and 67% of all teachers are white women. That does not match the diversity of our state at all. 47% of all public school students are non-white. We know some of the problems, including the licensing test where just 38% of black candidates and 54% of Hispanic candidates eventually pass the test, as opposed to 75% of white candidates. But we certainly do not know all of them, so a taskforce like the one created by this bill can take a deep dive into the issue and come up with recommendations.

Arguments Against:

Racial profiling is wrong, no matter the direction. Instead of viewing our teachers as male or female or black or white, we should view them as people and try to find the best people we can to teach our kids, regardless of gender or race. We should not try to hire the best black man or Hispanic woman we can find for the job, we should try to hire the best teacher. What lessons are we teaching our children if we teach them that their gender or their race is one of the most important factors for earning a job in any profession, much less one with so much interaction with our kids?


We seem to already know what to do here, if part of the activity of the group involves reading another report on the same subject. Let’s get going on making needed changes, not take time for more study.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1007

HB20-1011 Helping Others Manage Early Childhood Act (Pettersen (D), Story (D)) [Wilson (R), Buckner (D)]

From the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Around $400,000 a year for two years beginning in FY2021-22 Negligible

Goal: Improve early childhood care provided outside of established licensed facilities and provide avenues for these caregivers to potentially become licensed centers or preschools.

Description:

State is to contract with a third-party entity to conduct a public awareness conduct a grassroots campaign targeted at families, friends, neighbors who provide early childhood care and the diverse network of early childhood caregivers in the state to ensure they are aware of what is expected of children when they enter kindergarten and what resources are available. State is also to develop a series multi-county workshops for early childhood providers to provide additional information on skills to perform their jobs and career pathways, including licensing and procedures. Finally state to develop regional workshops that instruct how to open an early childcare center or preschool, including licensure, and on the Colorado SHINES rating system.

Additional Information:

Public awareness campaign has several target dates and must be fully in place no later than the start of the 2021-22 academic year. County workshops to be held throughout 2021-22 academic year. Regionals in the summer of 2022. Adequate childcare must be provided by the state for all workshop participants.

Auto-Repeal: Sunset review September 2023

Arguments For:

One of the most neglected part of our early childhood education efforts is reaching the friend and family networks that actually do a lot of the care for our pre-school age children. The workshops build upon that network with escalating efforts to try to bring the additional licensed providers we desperately need in this field.

Arguments Against:

Most parents know what children are supposed to be able to do when they enter school, we shouldn’t waste money on a program to tell them something they already know

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1011

HB20-1015 Future Educator Pathways Grant Program (Bridges (D)) [Buentello (D), Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: $1,650,000 evenly over next three years
Fiscal Impact: Beyond appropriation, none

Goal: Increase the number of licensed teachers in Colorado by funding pathways beginning in secondary school.

Description:

Creates the Future Educator Pathways Grant program to provide grants to school districts to create future educator pathway programs to assist in recruiting and retaining teachers. Grants must be matched at least 25% by the district. At least 20% 35% of grant money must go to rural areas and at least 70% must go to programs that include apprenticeship. Administrative expenses must not exceed 5% of the grant fund. $550,000 appropriated annually for the next three years.

Additional Information:

State to create specific requirements for apprenticeships but they must be career-oriented, have portable credits, have proper oversight, and earn wages. Grants must be awarded to geographically diverse locations. State must prioritize applications that will utilize open paraprofessional positions to pay apprentice wages. Grant applications must include:

  • Description of program, including concurrent enrollment and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Total number of students expected to participate
  • State institution of higher education partner and assurance that program will lead to transferrable credit toward relevant degrees
  • Description of educator training the school will provide
  • Budget for program, including grant money
  • Matching funds commitment
  • If applicable, description of plan to automatically enroll student in institution of higher education upon program completion

Grant money may be used for:

  • Paying wages of an apprentice, if no open paraprofessional positions are available
  • Cover job training, certification, and licensing costs for an apprentice
  • Cover transportation costs for an apprenticeship
  • Cover concurrent enrollment costs beyond what is already covered by other programs
  • Any other purpose determined by state board that furthers goal of grant program

Annual report must include:

  • Number of programs supported by grant fund
  • Non-identifying information about students participating in grant fund programs, including demographics and free or reduced school lunch eligibility
  • Number of overall high school graduates who started higher education and received a degree in education or a teaching credential and the time-frame required to receive it
  • College credit earned by students in the grant funded programs and any future employment for these students


Auto-Repeal: July 2030

Arguments For:

We still have massive teacher shortages in Colorado, 14% of all teacher positions and 19% of all special service provider positions in the state need to be filled in the last school year. That’s nearly 9,000 people we need to hire. We did pretty well, considering the challenge, but still came up short 367 people and only filled 1,054 positions through shortage mechanisms. This problem is particularly acute in rural Colorado. Meanwhile a recent study by the state found that we are actually seeing a decrease in enrollment and completion of state educator preparation programs, with the result that half of the teachers the state licenses annually are from out-of-state. In any industry, lack of experiential learning is a barrier to reliable supplies of skilled talent. We have also found that concurrent enrollment is way to increase the likelihood of competing post-secondary education. In teaching in particular, youth apprenticeships have been found to be good pathways for creating future teachers. So this bill creates a program to leverage state funds to address our teacher shortage crisis by trying the best methods we know for creating the teachers of tomorrow. We simply don’t have the budget to fund the large increases in teacher pay that would attack the problem from that angle.

Arguments Against:

Teachers shortages are not unique to Colorado and the basic reason behind them is fairly simple: being a teacher doesn’t pay well enough. If we want to attract more teachers, we need to pay them better, end of story. This program may help around the edges, although the matching fund requirement may prove a barrier to entry for less fortunate areas of the state, but with a problem this large, we need solutions that go beyond just the edges.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1015

HB20-1016 Increase Quality In Early Childhood Education Programs (Pettersen (D)) [McCluskie (D), Wilson (R)]

From the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $2.5 million per year

Goal: Broaden existing program designed to increase quality of early childhood educational providers to help more providers achieve and keep a quality rating.

Description:

Requires Allows the state to provide technical assistance and financial incentives to programs that are level I (lowest) or level II in the Colorado SHINES quality rating system to level III or higher and to programs rated III, IV or V (highest) to maintain their rating. Currently the state is only supposed to help level II programs or licensed programs with demonstrated hardship actively trying to get to level II status. This is all done via early childhood councils that provide local community outreach and engagement strategies.

Additional Information:

There are currently 34 child councils supporting 759 providers receiving assistance, costing $2.7 million in state and federal funds.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Research has shown that early childhood education can be very beneficial for later life success. Raising the quality of that education increases the number of children who are ready when kindergarten begins and makes it less likely children will fall behind early in school. It also increases the likelihood that parents will use early childhood education: no parent wants to send their child to an inferior program and those that rate poorly on Colorado SHINES may be less attractive. This may in turn lead to parents deciding against early childhood education altogether. So while this bill is a quality improvement bill, it may also improve the quantity of kids in these programs.

Arguments Against:

There is also significant research that shows that the scholastic advantages early-childhood educated kids come into school with vanish by 2nd or 3rd grade. Early childhood education helps not because of the great teaching kids get but because of the advantage it gives the family of reliable daycare with meals, health screenings, and other social services. So the goal shouldn’t be to make “better” early childcare but just have more of it. Given that we have shortages of affordable care around the state, we may do better to just plow money into making more educators and worry less about how high quality they are.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1016

HB20-1032 Timing K-12 Education Standards Review (Ginal (D), Coram (R)) [Kipp (D), Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: MINOR

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Stagger review and revision of preschool through elementary and secondary education standards so that review still occurs every six years, but in 1/3 increments every two years instead of all at once.

Description:

Change the review and revision of preschool through elementary and secondary education standards so that instead of reviewing all standards every six years, standards are reviewed in 1/3 increments every two years.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This review requires a lot of work from the school districts is an especially large burden on the smaller school districts which have fewer resources. Spreading the review out in this manner still ensures that each standard gets a review every six years but spreads the workload so the smaller districts don’t get crushed. Standards that relate to similar things or each other can get grouped together so they can still be considered together.

Arguments Against:

This may help smaller districts but you lose too much by not having a holistic view of all of the standards at once. The board may be able to group similar or related standards together into the same group but it still has to form a coherent final picture that you just cannot do if things are broken up.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1032

HB20-1034 Income Tax Deduction For 529 Account K-12 Kindergarten Through 12th-grade Expenses [Larson (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Lose around $3.2 million in tax revenue a year

Goal: Allow distributions from 529 accounts tax free at the state level

Description:

The federal tax bill from two years ago 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.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

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 and prevent tax headaches for those who are now using their 529s for lower levels of education because of the federal law.

Arguments Against:

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 HB20-1034

HB20-1043 Income Tax Credit For Early Childhood Education Fix (Todd (D), Priola (R)) [Buckner (D), Wilson (R)] TECHNICAL BILL

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Description:

An amendment to a bill last year authorizing tax credits for early childhood educators made implementation of the bill dependent on if a nicotine tax measure contained in a different bill was passed or not by the voters. But that nicotine measure bill never got out of the legislature, which this amendment did not envision, so the bill did not get enacted. That was not the intent, the intent was to enact the bill if the nicotine tax measure did not become law. It didn’t, so this bill fixes the intent in the last session and implements the early childhood educator credit.

HB20-1053 Supports For Early Childhood Educator Workforce (Story (D)) [Sirota (D), Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED

From the Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $400,000 a year

Goal: Make it easier to obtain credentials or licensing in early childhood education and create two programs to boost training and retention of educators as well as apprenticeships in the field.

Description:

  • Allows early childhood care or education program to be licensed for a period of time to be determined by state board of human services, if a certain number of aspiring early childhood educators (number determined by state board) in program are pursuing a state-agency approved early childhood credential and other quality, safety, and supervision measures are met.
  • Requires state board to create rules that allow early childhood educators to earn points toward credentials based upon prior experiences and demonstrated competency. Licensing pathway must include ways in which candidates can earn points or credits based on prior experiences and competencies that apply toward required qualifications. This must include an expansion of the number of people and organizations that can use tools to award points for demonstrated competencies and increase number of community-based organizations approved to review and award credentials.
  • Creates the Early Child Care and Education Recruitment and Retention Grant and Scholarship Program to increase number and retain of qualified early childhood educators in the state. Individuals and organizations can apply. Grants are for costs associated with earning degrees or credentials, mentorship and programing costs to encourage mentorship, building “grow your own” programs, and monetary-based incentives to retain educators. Grantees must report to the state.
  • Creates the Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship Program to create work-based learning opportunities for individuals interested in entering early child care field. It must create defined paths into the profession. Program can distribute funds to local entities for implementing apprenticeships or supporting existing ones.
  • Requires state to better align the requirements for the early childhood professional credential, educator licensing, and child care program licensing, including examining ways to offer reciprocity for credentials earned outside of Colorado.
  • State must develop resources to support local communities to increase concurrent enrollment opportunities for high school students to earn higher education credits and degrees that allow them to serve as early childhood educators.
  • State must report every two years to legislature on gap between currently supply of qualified early childhood educators and need, including future needs. Broken down by geographic region of state.

Additional Information:

State must also look for ways to streamline paperwork that licensed early care and education programs and early childhood educators must complete to meet licensing and credential requirements. Neither of the funds created in this bill to support the grant and the apprenticeship programs can accept gifts, grants, or private donations.

Those eligible for the grant program include:

  • Individuals pursuing a career in early child care and education who are participating in activities eligible for scholarship money
  • Non-profits that administer or plan to administer scholarship programs aligned with the purposes of the grant program
  • Early care and education programs licensed by the state
  • Institutions of higher education that administer scholarship programs aligned with the purposes of the grant program

Eligible expenditures for grant program include:

  • Administration of scholarship program up to a fixed amount to be determined by state board
  • Payment of tuition, fee, and required materials for courses that lead to degree or credential or other formal training in the field or to higher levels of certification for those already in the field
  • Payments for costs associated with credentialed teacher earning a certification that allows them to serve as trainer or mentor to others in the field
  • Payments to providers to cover paid release time for individuals, substitutes, and program costs to allow individuals to purse career advancement in the field and payments to cover costs of promoting teachers to coaching and mentorship roles
  • Payments to any entity that supports “grow your own” programs that support current local providers meeting qualifications to be licensed programs
  • Raises, bonuses, and other financial incentives, including loan forgiveness, to reward teachers and help retention

Report from grantees must include increase in number of individuals credentialed to teach or who receive higher-level credentials to teach at state licensed programs serving early childhood as a result of the grant program.

Eligible local entities for the apprenticeship program must include: workforce development programs, non-profits, institutions of higher education, and early childhood councils.

Standards for formally recognized apprenticeship programs must include the following components:

  • Expectations for employer involvement
  • Standards for on-the-job training, including opportunities to earn higher education credits for that training
  • Availability of relevant training and classroom instruction
  • Rewards for skills gained
  • Pathways to earning a credential through the apprenticeship

Monetary awards in the apprenticeship program may be given for:

  • Supporting existing programs or creating new ones by making money available to local entities
  • Supporting existing programs reach more apprentices
  • Technical assistance related to establishing the partnerships necessary to create apprenticeships
  • Money for recruitment of mentor teachers
  • Incentives for program participants
  • Financial rewards for skills gained
  • Incentives for licensed providers to participate
  • Costs of classroom training and instruction
  • Costs of earning a credential
  • Support on-the-job training


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We know that early childhood education is important. Research has shown that it can be very beneficial for later life success. It is a boon to working parents who need some form of trusted, safe childcare during working hours. It is also critical for most childhood development problems to catch them early, the earlier they are caught the more likely they can mitigated. But we know we don’t have the workforce we need in early childhood education to meet the expected 20% increase in demand over the next ten years. So we need to attack this p across multiple dimensions. First, we need to make it easier for people who have the appropriate skills or are working toward them, to obtain the necessary credentials or licensing. This includes finding ways to properly credit past experiences, which is especially important for people coming from other careers, and finding ways to get more people into the pipeline through financial support for education and credential obtainment. Apprenticeships, of course, are an extremely valuable way to do this, but other financial incentives can also help. Then we also need to improve ways for mentorship within the industry so as to help pull up that next generation of educators. All of this is addressed by this bill in a variety of different ways.

Arguments Against:

The two programs created by this bill do not have any prioritization for distributing grants, so we cannot ensure we are hitting areas with the largest shortages. There is also quite a bit left up to the discretion of state agencies in implementing various criteria. This also applies to the applying prior experience toward credentials or licenses part of the bill. And that part of this is too difficult a web to unweave. Obviously it probably should matter what you did in any particular prior work experience, but how do you suss that out and figure out what is applicable and what is not? The same goes for any other work-related experience that doesn’t have a standardized result. We also have no protection from students taking advantage of the grant or apprenticeship programs and then leaving to state to work elsewhere, in effect wasting the resources we spent upon them from the point of view of getting more qualified early childhood educators in Colorado.


The problem is overly stringent state licensing and credential requirements for what should really just amount to day care. There is research that shows that the scholastic advantages early-childhood educated kids come into school with vanish by 2nd or 3rd grade. Early childhood education helps not because of the great teaching kids get but because of the advantage it gives the family of reliable daycare with meals, health screenings, and other social services. So we should relax our standards to make it easier for more people to enter the profession.


The bill appropriates no money to these programs, so they will be at the mercy of the budgeting process every year. They also cannot accept private funds so it really is entirely up to the state legislature.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1053

HB20-1058 Behavior Analysts In Public Schools (Bridges (D)) [Froelich (D)]

AMENDED: Very Significant

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require schools to allow behavior analysts in certain defined situations when requested by a parent or legal guardian to provide services to a student during school hours. create a policy on allowing behavior analysts to provide medically necessary services to a student during school hours.

Description:

Requires schools to allow a behavioral analyst to provide services to student during school hours, including during structured school time, if a parent or legal guardian provides a letter from a licensed physician or psychologist or another behavioral health evaluation performed by another evaluator. This letter must indicate services are necessary to assist the student with behavioral health impairments that interfere with the student’s ability to thrive and adapt in society and that treatment of these behaviors must be provided in the school setting. This has no impact on qualification for special education and related services. Parents/guardians are on the hook for the cost of the analyst. Schools are to develop policies to implement this law. Analysts must comply with any individualized educational program, including a family service plan. If the analyst’s plan and the school plan differ and cause disruption, the parents/guardians must be involved in remedying the differences. Schools may ban individual analysts from their buildings if they do not comply with school policies. Schools may not enter into exclusivity agreements with analysts that prevent parents/guardians from choosing an analyst. Existing agreements are grandfathered in. create a policy on allowing behavior analysts to provide medically necessary services to a student during school hours. Must be done by July 2021 and must be discussed at a public school board meeting prior to creating the policy.

Additional Information:

  • Analysts must maintain at least $1 million per occurrence and $3 million in aggregate of general liability insurance with a certificate naming school as certificate holder.
  • Schools must require passage of a fingerprint-based criminal background check as part of their policies.
  • Parents/guardians must sign a consent release information form between the analyst and the school.
  • The analyst and the school must enter a memorandum of understanding addressing all school policies and analyst privileges prior to delivery of services.
  • Schools must establish reporting requirements for the analyst related to student progress and school safety.
  • Behavioral analyst is defined as someone who is nationally certified as a board certified behavior analyst or as a board certified assistant behavior analyst or a registered board technician supervised by one of the first two categories.

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is a serious problem for kids, parents, teachers, and mental health professionals. It is frequently enormously helpful to have the therapist in the classroom observing, helping coach the teacher on how to handle the student, and helping the student where necessary. Most teachers are extremely happy to have the help (it lets them focus more on their job, teaching) but unfortunately there are many districts in the state where this is flat out not allowed (and too few where it is). Requiring districts to allow analysts into the classroom is going to help everyone create a more positive learning environment while keeping a child mainstreamed. The bill requires liability insurance and written documentation, as well as payment by the parents, so one of the key concerns of schools about potential liability is taken care of. It also envisions potential conflicts between analysts and school plans and has a remedy. Limiting access to behavioral analysts only ensures that we will have people in the classroom who are highly trained in precisely what the child needs and should ensure minimal disruption to the rest of the class, whereas broadening the scope may cause the kind of disruption that would put the entire concept into jeopardy. We should require all schools to set a policy in this area and do so while considering public feedback. We still may get quite a few schools jumping in once public pressure works its will.

Arguments Against:

This is both too broad and too restrictive at the same time. There are no professional qualifications required for the evaluator performing the behavioral health evaluation that is one of the ways to get a letter authorizing this access. The letter can also be provided by any physician, no expertise in behavioral health required. This forces schools to allow access in cases where a qualified behavioral health professional may think it is not necessary. But the bill is also too restrictive. It only allows board certified behavioral analysts into the classroom, leaving out the far larger groups of licensed professionals who are providing most of the behavioral health care in this state: clinicians and social workers. This may lead to some organizations where children with behavioral needs are getting care being unable to access the school as this bill envisions because the child’s therapist is not a licensed behavioral health analyst.


This is too disruptive and forces all of the children who are behaving fine to have their learning environment potentially disrupted by another adult who is not a trained educator. If a child’s needs are so severe and classroom disruptions so prevalent that they require a trained analyst to be in the room, then that child should be removed from mainline education and classrooms and given the specialized learning that they need. This is also a one-size fits all mandate on our schools, some of which may have very good reason for not letting 3rd parties into the classroom. Right now schools that are comfortable with allowing what this bill envisions are free to do so and those that are not do not are not forced to. We should stick with that paradigm.


This bill is now gutted and just asks schools to set a policy, any policy, in this area. The policy could just be, "No" and that would be sufficient. This is too important to let the local control crowd have it all their way.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1058

HB20-1062 Colorado Student Free Expression Law (Lee (D), Coram (R)) [McLachlan (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Clarify that freedom of press standards for K-12 publications apply whether it is printed, broadcast, or online and prohibit retaliation against school employees for acting to protect this right.

Description:

Clarifies that freedom of press standards for K-12 publications apply whether the publication is printed, broadcast, or online. Prohibits retaliation against any public school employee solely for actions to protect a student engaging in this right or refusing to infringe upon this right.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Part of this bill is just updating laws to reflect the times. A student publication that is broadcast or disseminated online is still a student publication and deserves the same 1st amendment protections. During the teachers’ strike last year some high school students were told to stop documenting what was happening inside their schools. And of course no employee should face retaliation for acting to protect these fundamental rights.

Arguments Against:

Broadcast and online media can be published nearly instantly, as opposed to printed media, and so the dangers of material that either contributes to an unsafe environment (including bullying) or is inappropriate (we have decency standards for media) rises. It therefore should not be treated in the same manner.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1062

HB20-1111 Parent Authority To Require Educational Reforms [Geitner (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level

Goal: Allow petitions from ½ of parents attending public schools that are failing statewide standards to make specific changes in the school, and if the local board rejects the changes, initiate recall elections and appeal to the state board of education.

Description:

Allows 50% of eligible families to petition for changes in a variety of areas at school that has been required to adopt a priority improvement or turnaround plan for at least two years in a row. Any family of a child that attends the school or attends a school that feeds into the low performing school is an eligible family. Only one family member is allowed to sign the petition. Changes can include safety protocols and discipline procedures, different curriculum, change the school to a charter or request an external public manager (and petitioner can select the one they want in either case), replace staff and faculty who are relevant to the school’s problems, or get new charter schools in the district. School must check petitions for validity, petitioners can appeal to state board of education if the schools rejects the petitions as invalid. Local board must hear a valid petition at its next open meeting. It can propose different changes, which the petitioners may or may not accept. If the petitions keep a valid petition before the board, it must vote on it. If the local board rejects, the petitioners can initiate recall elections for the board and appeal to the state board.

Additional Information:

Petitions must be submitted by January 1 of the school year prior to the year the reforms would take effect. Petition must include name and address of the school and a list of reforms the petitioner is requesting. Must include a specific affidavit signing statement (precisely as worded in the bill) that the person signing is an eligible parent and that they understand only one parent per family can sign. Petitions that include more than one parent per family are not invalidated, but only one of them gets to count. Both the local school board and the state school board, if it is appealed to, have 14 days to validate the petition. If the local board rejects the petition, the petitioners have 30 days to appeal to the state school board. State board must have a public hearing with testimony before deciding. If the state board decides to accept the petition it may extend the timeframe for implementing the reforms by one year.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Part of the compact we have made with our public school system is that any child in Colorado will get a high-quality free education. Sadly we all know we fall short of that mark in some areas of the state, particularly in lower income areas. We also know that minorities bear a disproportionate brunt of the wide level in quality of our schools. So if a school just cannot get its act together, we should not ask the parents whose children are directly affected to just sit and wait while the same people who messed up the school in the first place get it back on track. This bill has a high bar to clear for a successful petition: 50% of all families that feed into that school or attend it. That is not going to be easy for anyone to meet and any outside group that is trying to use the situation to their advantage would have a hard time convincing that many families without really solid footing. So this bill really is a measure of last resort for desperate parents who likely can easily see what is wrong with the school and what needs to be done to fix it. Because although you can try to complicate things all you want, the bottom line is that a school needs kids to be behaved and teachers who can teach them what they need to know. And no changes are forced onto anyone. Both the local school board and the state school board are free to reject the petition. No one is going to get stealth curriculum changes or turn a school into a charter school without the support of these boards. But if we have this many parents who feel like something should be done and the local board ignores them, of course those parents should have the right to initiate recall proceedings. The board is supposed to work for them and their children and has to be failing at that job for the procedures in this bill to even be valid.

Arguments Against:

This bill supposes that groups of parents are going to get together and propose changes to the low-performing school that are just what it needs to turn itself around. How legal the changes are (more laws have to be followed than just this bill), how practical they are, and what evidence there is for their success is not discussed in the bill. Not to disparage the parents, but most of them will not have the deep understanding of how schools work (and don’t work) to pull this off without massive outside help. Presumably the school will reject the proposed changes and so will the state board. Or, another possibility is that some groups that cannot get their way on curriculum and the constitution of the school board in the traditional manner will try to use this process to recall board members and take their chances on lower turnout election or turn a public school into a charter school. The bill also has no safeguards against fraud, as the untrained school board and state education board as the ones tasked with checking signatures. It has nearly impossible to meet timeframes for examining signatures (because any school that feeds into the school counts, some high schools could have over 10,000 eligible families). And we don’t know how much all of this will cost the schools in funds (this is not the job of the people who analyze these bills for fiscal impact). This is not a responsible way to make changes in our schools. We have policies and procedures in place already for these schools that are having trouble. We have experts in education we can consult. It is extremely frustrating for parents who have to send their kids to sub-par schools, no one is disputing that. But this is not the way to change that in a positive way.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1111

HB20-1125 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit (Zenzinger (D), Woodward (R)) [Baisley (R), Buentello (D)]

*This bill is identical to SB050*

AMENDED: SIGNIFICANT

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $22 6.9 million in lost revenue a year and $1 million in additional expenditures

Goal: Extend a federal income tax credit for educators purchasing school supplies out-of-pocket up to $750 $500 as a state tax credit.

Description:

Eligible educators can already claim up to a $250 federal income tax deduction for the purchase of school supplies and certain professional development courses. This bill creates a state income tax credit for expenses over that $250 federal cap, up to $750 $500. Amount of the credit that exceeds the educator’s income taxes is refunded.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: December 2024 for the ability to take the tax credit, December 2028 for the entire bill

Arguments For:

Educators frequently have to purchase supplies out of their own pockets, and the $250 federal deduction is nice, but not sufficient. A survey in 2018 found that 94% of teachers spent their own money on school supplies without reimbursement from the school, with an average amount spent of $479. This bill should help more teachers fully cover their supply purchases, which deals with the world we live in, not the world we wish we had (where teachers didn’t have to go out-of-pocket at all). The amended smaller cap will still cover the average teacher's expenses.

Arguments Against:

It’s nice to do more to recognize teachers’ out-of-pocket spending but what we really need to be doing is putting more money into our schools so that teachers do not have to do this at all. It is unfair to them and unfair to students, whose supply levels may depend on how generous their teacher is.


This is part of the profession. The 94% number says it all, this is an expectation for teachers. That expectation is already baked into the job and the salary. We should not be further supplementing teacher incomes by giving them further tax credits, to the tune of $22 million a year in lost revenue that may just come out of the education budget. If a teacher does not like these minor out-of-pocket expenses then they can switch professions.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1125

HB20-1127 Extend Public Employees' Retirement Association Retiree Work After Retirement Limit (Todd (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [McCluskie (D), McLachlan (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible increase to retirement fund

Goal: Allow rural school districts to employ retired special services teachers without any penalties to those teachers’ benefits.

Description:

Allows a board of cooperative services for school districts to hire retired special services members of the public employees’ retirement association without those members losing any retirement benefits. Boards of cooperative services serve multiple districts, almost entirely in rural regions of the state, and frequently provide special education services to these districts. They would be permitted to hire retirees if it is for rural districts to provide special services to students and there is either a critical shortage of qualified special service providers or the retiree has specific experience, skills, or qualifications that would benefit the students. No more than 40 of these retirees can be hired statewide in one year and retirees can work for five consecutive years before their benefits would start to be affected. Board of cooperative services must make all regular retirement contributions to the retirement plan based on the retiree’s salary and also add an extra 2% of the salary. The retiree’s contributes the same percentage of their salary to the plan as a regular employee, their work does not affect any of the calculations of the benefits they receive, and they cannot receive a health care premium subsidy. They are eligible for the board’s health plan. Retirement association to report to legislature annually, entire program repeals in July 2025.

Additional Information:

Retirees cannot have worked during the month of the effective date of their retirement to be eligible. Board must notify the retirement association when it hires a retiree, and it is the job of the association to ensure we stay under the 40 person annual cap. Anyone who retires prior to meeting age and service requirements for full service cannot be hired by their former employer until two years after their retirement date. Report must contain number of retirees hired, the extent to which this has helped schools fill gaps, and the costs, if any, to the retirement plan.


Auto-Repeal: July 2025

Arguments For:

Boards of cooperative services by definition are serving school districts that find it advantageous to cost-share some financial burdens, including special services for students such as speech language pathologists, school psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, audiologists, teachers for the visually impaired and hard of hearing, and early childhood education teachers. They frequently have trouble finding qualified personnel to work in these rural areas and it makes perfect sense to fill short-term gaps with qualified personnel who happen to be retired. If they are willing, of course, this will help the schools, bring some additional money to the retiree, and not disrupt benefits. The bill has safeguards against people using this program to boost later retirement benefits and the board must not only pay their usual portion into the retirement plan, but some extra as well as an incentive not to use this program unless absolutely necessary. Capping this at 40 should ensure we are not overly relying on this temporary crutch and are still attempting to solve any shortage problems. Should be a win-win situation.

Arguments Against:

Even with that extra 2% this makes it too easy for us to put off difficult choices and decisions about how to tackle these severe shortages in our rural areas. By giving these boards a temporary crutch, they can relax for a few years, knowing they may have up to five before they have to worry about filling that position again.


Boards should not have to contribute an extra 2% to the retirement plan. An employee is filling a role and the board is sending in the regular contributions from both them and the employee. The same funds are going in regardless of the fact that the employee is a retiree and the bill ensures that this employment doesn’t increase what that retiree is owed. These are resource-strapped areas and the five year limit, 40 person cap, and a sound head will keep boards from abusing the program. We don’t need any sort of penalty on top.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1127

HB20-1128 Educator Education Requirements Special Education (Zenzinger (D), Priola (R)) [Buentello (D), Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Ensure that all teachers in Colorado have been exposed to federal laws and best practices around teaching children with disabilities.

Description:

To renew an educator’s license, bill requires a minimum of 10 hours of professional development relating to increasing awareness of laws and practices of educating students with disabilities in the classroom, including but not limited to, child find and inclusive learning environments. Also requires each educator preparation program, alternative teacher program, and alternative principal program to include course work that provides an overview of federal laws on teaching students with disabilities, individualized education programs, and child find and inclusive learning environments.

Additional Information:

Child find is the part of federal law that requires schools to find students with disabilities.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Federal law requires us to provide every child with special education needs appropriate services delivered in the least restrictive environment possible with an individualized education plan (IEP). We are currently failing too many of these children. In 2018 less than 10% of children with an IEP were meeting grade expectations in grades 3-8 and less than 60% of students with an identified disability graduate high school on time. In grades K-2, 33% of all suspended students had an IEP. This is quite simply in part due to the fact that we don’t require any of the laws or best practices around students with disabilities to be taught, including identifying these children in the first place. There is no licensure requirement and no requirement for the programs in the state that teach our teachers, and we are one of the few states in the country that doesn’t require this. This bill ensures that every educator in every classroom knows the law and knows best practices without increasing the overall amount of time teachers must put into professional development (that stays at 90 hours every five years). That of course will not solve everything on its own, but it is a big step in the right direction.

Arguments Against:

The blame here should not be laid at the feet of teacher preparedness, but at resources. We just do not have enough resources in too many of our schools to appropriately support children with disabilities. So the solution is not to require this specialized training for our teachers, who would instead be free to spend their development time on other subjects, it is to provide more support, in the form of dollars, to our teachers and schools. More highly trained specialized aides working in the classroom instead of a little bit of knowledge spread around to everyone.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1128

HB20-1135 Replace High School Social Studies Assessment (Todd (D), Lundeen (R)) [Buck (R), McLachlan]

AMENDED: VERY SIGNIFICANT

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: ReplaceNo longer require the high school social studies assessment students must currently take once with the US citizenship test, to be taken in the year the student will graduate.

Description:

Replaces No longer requires the high school social studies assessment students must currently take once with the US citizenship test, to be taken in the year the student will graduate. Test is the same test given by the US citizenship and immigration services.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

What better way to determine if our students are ready to be citizens of this country than to administer the very test we give to immigrants seeking to become US citizens? That should be the prime goal of social studies at this level, to produce adults ready to participate in our democracy. We already test for this multiple times prior to high school and the basics of citizenship have been taught. This test can be opted out of and is done every three years on a randomized population isn't useful to the teachers and doesn't present full knowledge of what is really going on in the school. Deep knowledge of world history is a nice bonus, but not necessary to succeed in our society and we need to focus on the basics that are.

Arguments Against:

There is a lot more than just US civics and history, which is what the citizenship test covers. If the concept behind the test is broken, fix the concept, don't ditch the test. Only 18% of our 7th graders reach expectations on this test. Students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of world history, world religions, geography, and economics, in addition to US civics and history. We are testing to see if our schools are doing a good job of teaching these subjects. You cannot know the answer to that if you do not ask. And this stuff is important. Sending student out into the world without a fundamental understanding of basics like the Holocaust, the Civil War, an understanding of cultures unlike ours, and the Industrial Revolution, among many other things, is actually dangerous. A recent survey found 41% of millennials believed fewer than 2 million Jews died in the Holocaust, 66% did not know what Auschwitz was, and 52% of all Americans wrongly believed Hitler came to power via force. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1135

HB20-1185 Sunset Colorado Kids Outdoors Advisory Council (Fields (D)) [Hooton (D), Saine (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Repeal the Colorado Kids Outdoors Advisory Council, as recommended by the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review.

Description:

Repeals the Colorado Kids Outdoors Advisory Council, as recommended by the department of regulatory agencies’ sunset review.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This council was supposed to establish criteria for the Colorado Kids Outdoors Grant program, but that ended up being minimally funded and not at all since 2012 so the council has basically been inactive for basically its entire existence.

Arguments Against:

The grant program still exists, so until we remove that (and perhaps we should if it has been inactive for this long) the council should stay. It certainly isn’t hurting anyone as it costs no money.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1185

HB20-1204 Tax Deduction For Donation To Scholarship Organization (Smallwood (R), Tate (R)) [Ransom (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $450,000 lost revenue per year

Goal: Create a state income tax deduction for money donated to a non-profit that provides scholarships to students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches to attend private K-12 school.

Description:

Creates a state income tax deduction for money donated to a non-profit that provides scholarships to students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches to attend private K-12 school. All of the donated money must go to scholarships for the organization to maintain eligibility within three years of receiving the donation. Only income that is not claimed for a federal tax deduction is eligible for state credit. Non-profits must submit to annual financial and compliance audits of its accounts and records by an independent certified public accountant. State must ensure non-profit meets eligibility requirements and submit to the department of revenue a list of organizations in compliance starting in 2022 and then every year through 2027. Penalty for misusing any funds is 4.63% of the amount that was misused. Tax credit ends in 2026.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2026

Arguments For:

Many lower income parents cannot escape their poor public schools because they cannot get transportation for their children to a different school to choice into. Private schools of course provide an excellent education but they are expensive. Providing these children scholarships are a win-win, the child gets a great education and a leg up in their future and the private school gets increased diversity. The bill ensures the money is being properly used and does not allow taxpayers to double-count credit with federal taxes. It is also highly unlikely that any lost tax revenue will come out of public schools. Because the bill requires organizations to use the money entirely on scholarships, any donations have to based upon actual need. This ensures we keep the overall revenue loss down and negates the need for any cap on the credit. Private schools are also restricted by the number of pupils they can actually teach, so there is not an unlimited number of scholarships that could be produced. The school itself can only have so many students and there are only so many private schools in the state. The bill also protects against organizations hording the money by requiring them to spend it within three years.

Arguments Against:

We should not be using taxpayer money to subsidize students attending private schools, including religious-based ones. We provide a free K-12 education for all children in the state and that is paid for with our taxpayer dollars. The extent to which we siphon money away from the state can siphon money away for those schools. And this tax credit is uncapped, so a taxpayer could zero out their state tax liability entirely by donating to these programs. That runs contrary to our usual tax credit practices, where we limit the amount someone can avoid paying the state. While it is true that all dollars must go to scholarships, several extremely wealthy folks who want to boost private schools and lower the amount of money they pay to the state in taxes could very easily help boost the number of scholarships given out (which after all is really the intent behind a bill like this—we give tax credits to try to influence behavior) which could raise demand beyond what the fiscal note is anticipating. It would seem unlikely that private schools will run out of people who would accept a scholarship.

The three-year spending requirement may actually make this unworkable. What is the scholarship organizations supposed do with excess funds it cannot use on scholarships after three years? Apparently pay a penalty of 4.63%, which is not fair to the organization.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1204

HB20-1231 Amend Programs Addressing Educator Shortages (Todd (D)) [Wilson (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal: Require degree transfer agreements among state preparation programs by July 2022 and rework the grow your own educator program to give $5,000 scholarships for some teacher candidates who promise to work in the state after graduation and add more opportunities for high school students to get college credit in the field.

Description:

Requires state to negotiate degree transfer agreements among state teacher preparation programs so that by July 2022 students can transfer credits across 2 and 4 year institutions. Reworks the existing grow your own educator program. Now grow your educator programs must include the opportunity for high school students to participate in teacher preparation pathway programs where they receive post-secondary credit for courses taken in high school. Old program took students already at institutions of higher education and partnered them with local schools in high-need areas. In exchange for agreement to teach in district for at least three years, the student’s final 36 credit hours were paid for by the state. This bill changes this to $5,000 scholarships for the final 24 credit hours with just an agreement to work in a state public school after graduation. No time limit on that agreement.

State is to prioritize applicants: 1. Students who participated in high school grow your own programs and are completing field work in the same school district; 2. Student who participated in high school grow your own programs and commit to teaching in a community experiencing teacher shortages in key subject areas; 3. Students who participated in high school grow your own programs and commit to teaching in rural districts. Sets the program for sunset review and repeal in 2023.

Additional Information:

Grow your own programs in high schools can use concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment, early college, ASCENT program, p-tech schools, or any other authorized program that allows for getting transferable college credit during high school. State is to work to create collaborations between local schools and institutions of higher education to facilitate this process. Key subject areas are: math, world languages, special education, early childhood education, speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, science, and STEM. State is used the money it still has from the appropriation for this program when it was created in 2018 until it is exhausted. State must report to the legislature on the program. Bill also clarifies that teacher of record licenses (created by the original grow your own program in 2018) are only valid in the jurisdiction of the local education provider where the student is participating.


Auto-Repeal: September 2023 with sunset review

Arguments For:

We now have enough time with the old setup of this program to understand that it wasn’t working well enough. We can take the lessons from this and do the changes that are necessary to hopefully make it work in the future. First, we need to start work at the high school level. Second, we need smaller funding commitments but on a wider scale. Third, we need to loosen the restrictions on where people can teach after graduation to attract more folks to the program. And fourth, we need to kick the effort to have transferable credits into high gear. This bill does all of these things, recognizing the realities of trying to boost teachers in the state of Colorado, rather than trying to force things into our deepest areas of need. We still have the prioritization so we can address those areas first, but we are no longer limited to just those areas and we are not forcing someone to commit for three years.

Arguments Against:

The stark need is in rural areas and this weakens our ability to help in those areas in two ways. First, the lifting of a time-limit on teaching in the state allows a teacher to work in the state for a year and then leave, with no ability to get our money back. This is particularly tough for rural areas who can have a hard time retaining new educators. Second, because we are no longer requiring field work from the teacher candidate at the specific district in the program, we may have a harder time filling those slots if the teacher instead decides to teach at an urban school that is not having trouble attracting teachers and we simply don’t have enough applicants to fill out the other priority slots.


We’ve tried a dizzying array of these incentive programs and have yet to land on one that works. This is likely because we are not addressing the core of the problem: wages and housing. Much larger financial commitments are going to be necessary to truly solve this problem.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1231

HB20-1235 Colorado Department Of Education Support For Family Engagement Practices [Coleman (D), Larson (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible each year

Goal: Create the position of family-school partnership coordinator to help schools and educator preparation programs increase family-school partnerships.

Description:

Creates the position of Family-School Partnership Coordinator in the Office of Family, School, and Community Partnership. This person is to support schools in researching, designing, and implementing research-based family-school partnerships that align with national standards for family-school partnerships and support education preparation programs that provide training to educators related to implementing these partnerships. Coordinator to emphasize support to schools with higher than average number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches and/or students who are English language learners. Also must emphasize support for schools where increased family engagement is part of their documented turn-around plan for higher performance. Coordinator must create a report each year which is be made available publicly on its website and to the legislature. Position repeals in July 2025.

Additional Information:

Duties also include:

  • Ensuring schools, educator preparation programs, and local parent, family, and student organizations have access to information related to research-based family-school partnership training and best practices
  • Advising schools, educator preparation programs, and local parent, family, and student organizations on effectively using federal, state, and local funds to support research-based family-school partnerships
  • Help schools foster relationships with families
  • Consult and provide assistance to the state advisory council

Report must include:

  • Summary of recent research on best practices for improving relationships between schools and parents
  • Summary of resources available from the coordinator for schools
  • Innovative approaches to advancing research-based strategies implemented by schools and educator preparation programs and their impacts, including changes in attendance, behavior referrals, family satisfaction surveys, and student and teacher retention
  • Summary of federal law requirements regarding advancing family engagement practices and how state schools are doing to meet them
  • Sources of funding that may be available to schools, educator preparation programs, and local parent, family, and student organizations to advance family engagement and family-school partnerships, including federal and state grants and philanthropic sources.


Auto-Repeal: None June 2025

Arguments For:

We all know students do better when their family is engaged with their education. It is considered a foundational approach to school and district improvements. And we have made strides in this area by aligning with federal requirements, creating a grant program, and having one full-time employee working in the office of family, school, and community partnership. But that full-time employees time is already accounted for with duties and not enough of them speak directly to what we want to do with this bill, which is to make a national leader in equitably advancing and implementing research-based, high-impact family-school partnership strategies.

Arguments Against:

We already have someone working in this office full-time on this task. We should not need to hire anyone else, and if that person’s time is somehow being used on things not related to building these partnerships, that is a problem within this office and its supervision.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1235

HB20-1238 Safe And Healthy Learning Environments For Students [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D), Michaelson Jenet (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Lower use of police officers in schools and encourage other safety practices instead through changed preferences in several education grant programs.

Description:

For multiple education grant programs, requires the state to give preferences to schools that articulate a comprehensive approach to significantly reduce use of school policing, school resource officers, and invasive security technologies and practices; and that implement evidence-based or promising practices designed to promote safety and healthy learning environments. These can include restorative justice programs, school psychologists, social workers, other mental health professionals, substance use treatment services, wraparound services, and training for school staff in various areas to reduce conflict. This applies to the student re-engagement, the expelled and at-risk student services, the school bullying prevention and education, and the behavioral health care professional grant programs.

Additional Information:

Training can include restorative practices, conflict resolution techniques, trauma-informed approaches to meeting student needs, and addressing effects of toxic stress.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Police and schools just don’t mix. Police are authority figures, used to absolute deference and people immediately following their orders. Schools are not that kind of place and the best schools work to develop positive cultures and punishment structures. Not every fight needs to end in an arrest, not every student talking back needs to be handcuffed, and no student needs to be threatened with a firearm. There are numerous horror stories of students being handcuffed, tackled, arrested, and even just this last month, threatened with a firearm, for simply violating school rules. Just a taste: criminal charges for disrupting a school for fake burping, disorderly conduct for cursing, assault and battery with a weapon for throwing a baby carrot, drug possession for carrying a maple leaf, battery on police officer for a five year-old(!) for an ADHD-related tantrum, terroristic threats against an 8 year-old disabled student who threatened their teacher, pepper spray used in a school that contaminated the cafeteria food, pepper spray used on a 15 year-old that had locked herself in the bathroom, a 16 year-old tased for punching a wall, an elementary student whose wrist was broken when an officer tried to arrest him for participating in an argument, a boy beaten with a nightstick or using profanity, drawing a gun and pointing it at a student 24 times in three years in a district in Texas, and in Florida, threatening to shoot a high schooler who was not supposed to be in the school parking lot and tried to leave. And that is a very small taste. Many states have found a spike in juvenile arrests during the school year due to law enforcement in schools. There are also serious potential invasions of privacy and skirting of the 4th amendment. In Lakewood, school police prepared a bulletin to share information about problem juveniles in the school, including all identifying information, with outside law enforcement. Finally, there is a severe racial angle to all of this. Black students are already twice as likely as white students to be referred to law enforcement. A study of New York City middle schools found that black boys from neighborhoods with increased school police presence saw their academic performance drop. This is literally the school-to-prison pipeline on steroids. And police are expensive. Paying for them to be in a school is likely money not spent on a counselor or social worker. In fact a study found that in 2018 1.7 million students in the US attended a school with a police officer but no counselors. In Texas, a study examining schools between 1999 and 2008 found that middle and high schools that received grants to hire police for their schools saw a nearly 2% drop in graduation and college enrollment rates. For anyone considering the school shooting safety angle: a deputy sheriff was at Columbine in 1999, a school resource officer was famously at Parkland. This is not the way. So we should use some monetary incentives at our disposal to encourage schools to go the better route: resources and supports to address root causes of students who are struggling. That is what this bill does.

Arguments Against:

There is no doubt that police in schools done wrong is bad. But we should not throw out the entire idea over poor implementation. Done right police in schools not only provide increased safety inside the school and a trained armed professional at hand in case of a real crisis (again, someone doing the job wrong is not evidence that the job should not exist, for those who would point at Parkland). They also take some burdens off school administrators by providing a deterrent to disorderly behavior (once again, done right). These programs can also build important bridges between youth and police, so that youth are more likely to report crimes (both when they are in school and later in life). We shouldn’t sugar coat that some schools, especially some high schools, are dangerous places even if we are not thinking about school shootings. So perhaps we need to not think about doing away with this concept altogether but strengthening the rules and training around it so we can get the benefits without the identified downsides.


If we want to encourage less use of police officers in schools then use a school safety grant program to tackle that head-on. But we should not be taking a bunch of different grant programs that touch on the issue and use them as leverage over our schools to get what we want.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1238

HB20-1240 Early College Program And P-tech School Expansion (Donovan (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Will (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: $300,000
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Better coordinate a systematic approach to early college and p-tech programs in the state through an advisory group of stakeholders, as well as expand and give money to an existing grant program to expand these types of concurrent enrollment programs.

Description:

Creates the Early College Policy Development Advisory Group Task Force to better coordinate a systematic approach to early college and p-tech programs, encompassing existing programs and potential new ones. Group is to design and recommend programs that can work in every part of the state, enable four year (9-12), five year (9-13), and six year (9-14) programs, including addressing ways in which existing laws can be modified, combined, or repealed. Group is mandated to design a phase out of the ASCENT program and transition schools in it to other early college programs. Group is to look for a uniform funding solution across all programs and recommend characteristics and standards, with varying approaches for the different timelines. Must consult with representatives from all groups associated with concurrent enrollment programs and p-tech schools. Interim report due at end of year and final report due at end of 2021.

Bill also allows the existing concurrent enrollment expansion and innovation grant program to give grants to offset costs of operating an early college program and providing concurrent enrollment in work-based learning opportunities. Appropriates $200,000 $300,000 just for these type of grants. Finally bill allows programs that were 5 or 6 year concurrent enrollment programs and existed prior to a 2018 law which disallowed them to continue with the extra two years and authorizes financial assistance to students who enroll in post-secondary courses while still in high school.

Additional Information:

Group Task force consists of 17 members as follows:

  • Commissioner of education and executive director of department of higher education
  • Fifteen Members appointed by governor selected by commissioner:
    • At least two members of Individuals serving on the education leadership council
    • At least one school district or high school administrator that operates an early college program and at least one that operates a p-tech school and at least one from a rural school district Two school district administrators with experience in concurrent enrollment planning
    • At least one charter school administrator that offers concurrent enrollment
    • At least one administrator from an institution of higher education responsible for an early college program and at least one responsible for a p-tech school and at least one from a rural area
    • At least one person with expertise in work-based learning opportunities and apprenticeships leading to industry recognized credentials
    • At least one person representing an employer that works with or plans to work with a p-tech school
    • At least one person with expertise in early college and concurrent enrollment policies and laws at the high school level and one with expertise in school finance at the high school level
    • At least one person with expertise in early college and concurrent enrollment policies and laws at the post-secondary level and one with expertise in post-secondary financeTwo public school teachers with experience in concurrent enrollment programs

Members can be reimbursed for expenses. Group must coordinate with the Education Leadership Council. There is also created a legislative advisory council consisting of one member each appointed by the leaders of the two chambers (speaker and minority leader of house and president and minority leader of senate) to provide advice and act as a liaison to the legislature.

Specific things eligible for the expanded grants are:

  • Direct enrollment expenses in any dual enrollment program, including tuition, fees, books, and materials
  • Reimbursement for direct costs of providing an early college program, p-tech school, or concurrent enrollment during summer
  • Expansion of availability of early college and p-tech programs
  • Expansion of work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships and industry recognized certificate programs
  • Other uses specified jointly by the state board of education and state commission on higher education directly related to providing opportunities for high school students to enroll in post-secondary courses


Auto-Repeal: Council in January 2022

Arguments For:

We have a bunch of great individual programs encouraging concurrent enrollment and expanded opportunities to get post-secondary and work-related experience while still in high school. Almost 16,000 state high school students have completed some form of post-secondary or work-related credit or experience in past four years. The problem is that because we have approached this piecemeal for ten years, we have a confusing patchwork of programs with varying degrees of scalability across the state due to legal, geographic, and financial barriers. As a result the vast majority of early college opportunities are generally available to students in urban and larger school districts. We therefore need to overhaul all of this from the roots in order to have a unified and interwoven approach that can serve the entire state, without losing the progress we have already made. That is what this council can do. For the other changes, a 2018 law basically ended several successful early college models that relied on five or six years of high school, this bill reverses that. And it puts money directly into what we believe are the most successful types of early college programs for now, while we wait for the council’s report. ASCENT does not fit into the concurrent enrollment model, it basically just creates a fifth year of high school that actually happens at an institution of higher education with some post-secondary credits required prior to that last year. So we need to figure out how to phase that out in favor of concurrent enrollment, which works better on a broader scale.

Arguments Against:

ASCENT was specifically designed to help low-income and traditionally underserved populations. It does require post-secondary credits prior to completion of 12th grade and its participation map reaches a broad spectrum of the state. It should not be discarded before the discussion even begins on the future of early college programming in the state.


If the point is that we need to have a broader discussion about the best way to do early college and p-tech programs, than we should not at the same time single out a grant program and fiddle with it. Keep the status quo for one more year at least before we have the interim report.


The fact that we are confident enough to pick out a grant program and basically add a new element to it that is the only part we fund as well as decide to eliminate ASCENT should tell you that we don’t need a two-year council process to figure out how to streamline and stitch together these programs. Do it now.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1240

HB20-1269 Create School Safety Account And Related Tax Credits [Neville (R)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $212 million a year lost revenue and $68 million a year in diverted school funds at full implementation

Goal: Create school safety accounts for children directly affected by school safety incidents to use to attend private school or use homeschooling, and create tax deductible scholarship structure for the program.

Description:

Requires the department of education to create child safety accounts if a child in a public school or charter school is directly affected by a safety incident (but not a perpetrator) and the child’s parents could not reach a satisfactory resolution with the school district. This account is funded by the money that was supposed to go to the school district for the student. It instead can be used by the parents for eligible expenses in educating their child at either a participating private school or home-school. Any leftover money in the account can be used if the child attends an institution of higher education. The account can be closed for improper usage. Also creates a scholarship structure for the program. Any scholarships are 100% income tax deductible up to $100 million in aggregate. Parents in this program are eligible for tax credits for any payments relating to education that this program does not cover, at a 100% level. Any credits that exceed the taxes the parents owes are refunded to the parent.

Additional Information:

Eligible safety incidents include bullying, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, gang activity, fighting, suicide attempt or threat, shooting, drug use, other act of violence, or other incident that a licensed physician finds has an effect on the safety of the student. Eligible expenses include: tuition, instructional materials, tutoring, transportation to and from school, and therapy for trauma from the event. The scholarship cap can increase if the donor reaches 90% of it (so $90 million to start), if this happens it will go up by 25%. Scholarships can be given by individuals or corporations. Scholarships cannot be for specific students but can be for specific types of schools or specific types of safety incidents.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

One of the greatest societal failings we can have is the failure to protect a child. Our schools take on that responsibility but when they fail, parents sometimes don’t have a recourse. What is a parent supposed to do if their child is involved in an incident at school and no longer feels safe? An education costs large amounts of money, money that the state provides to the school but that the parents cannot access if they do not feel comfortable sending their child to public school. This bill fixes all of this, by giving these parents the ability to access the funds designated for their child to continue their education in another setting. And as recognition of the damage inflicted by the state through the public school, a way to continue education through a college degree. The tax credits bolster this by making sure that the parents will not have to pay any money, just as it is for public education. The scholarship program is a way to lift some of the burden of these costs off of the state. Ultimately, this bill is an attempt to rectify the tragedy of a child not feeling safe at school.

Arguments Against:

This bill has the potential to be a gigantic favor to wealthy individuals, private schools and parents who chose to opt-out of public education. It sounds reasonable on the surface, a child who is attacked at school should not have to go back there. But nowhere in this bill is school choice mentioned, which the ability for parents to send their child to a public school their child is not assigned to. Perhaps the way to solve this problem, and there is no argument that it is a problem if a child does not feel safe at school, is to guarantee a school choice option for the parents to send their child to a different public school. And even this omission only scratches the surface. The bill’s designation of safety incidents include a few that are fairly broad, such as bullying, and offer an “out” for a parent who like to send their child to private school but would not like to pay for it. And indeed, any parent would be a fool to not try to get into this system. Free private school (because if the safety account doesn’t cover the costs, the state will reimburse the rest through an unlimited tax refund) AND the potential for some free college education if the account is managed carefully. Not to mention a gigantic tax shelter the Cayman Islands would be proud of, in the form of a $100 million tax aggregate deduction. Anyone with any money whatsoever would be lining up to take advantage of this tax break to drastically lower their tax bill, with no real ceiling at all ($100 million a year is quite the goal). On the plus side that does mean that the state would probably not be on the hook for any additional tax refunds or the cost of college tuition, because all of the private money would be there. But of course that’s tax money the state won’t have to spend on anything other than the kids in this program. The non-partisan legislative staff council estimated that this bill would cost the state over $212 million dollars in revenue when fully implemented.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1269

HB20-1276 Individualized Student Degree Programs [Geitner (R)]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $250,000 per year

Goal: Create an individualized dual degree pilot program which would allow a student to graduate high school with both a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree, which could be customized to the specific student. The program is geared toward low-income students, 10 school districts or charter schools can participate in the pilot, and the student’s college degree is paid for with per-pupil funds that would have gone to the school and federal and state financial aid.

Description:

Creates an individualized dual degree pilot program which allows a student to graduate from high school with both their high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. State department of education must collaborate with department of higher education in running the program. School districts or charter schools must first apply with the department of higher education if they wish to participate in the program. The department of higher education will select 10 school districts or charter schools to participate in the pilot.

In order to qualify, 90% of the kids in the school’s dual degree program have to be low-income students that are selected using a lottery if there are more kids than slots available. The remaining 10% must again be filled by lottery. School must implement an education outreach program for students in 8th grade in order to explain this program and its benefits and requirements. Each student in the program must have an individualized career and academic plan and must apply for a Pell grant and for state financial aid. They must also sign a contract with the school, which outlines responsibilities on both sides.

Each student is given an individual degree account with CollegeInvest and any financial aid is put into the account. The school must also put at least 80% but not more than 95% of the pupil revenue the school receives for the student into the account. Amount withheld must directly relate to costs associated with helping the student through the program. Student must pay their share of tuition and costs for fees, books, and materials for post-secondary courses out of this account. They can accept private donations. Institutions of higher education must charge the statewide average per credit hour for the first 60 credits, then it can switch to its own per credit hour fees for the second 60 credits. Parent and the student advisory board (see below) must approve all expenditures. If testing shows the student is not ready, they can spend up to 50% of the money in their account to pay for developmental education resources, including secondary party services. Any money left in the account after the degrees are completed is returned to the student’s school but it can only be used on this program.

Schools must administer tests to each student in the first year of their participation to see if they are ready for college level work. Student reimburses the school for these tests from their degree account. Student must have access to high-quality academic and career advisors provided by a school employee. Each student must have an advisory board, selected by the student, their family, and the school. Family cannot serve on the board. Board is to help design the degree program, select and design internships, summer job experiences, and employment upon graduation. Also to help monitor the student’s progress and help the student make connections in their chosen field. Board must meet with student at least once a month and report to the school at least once a month on progress.

Bachelor’s degree can be an existing degree at an institution of higher education or a customized degree created for the student. Custom degrees must be approved by the state and must include at minimum: at least ten but not more than 15 total core course credits (English, math, history, literature, civics), at least nine but not more than 15 total advanced courses in developing skills (personal, entrepreneurial, civic, and interpersonal), at least 27 but not more than 30 credit hours to earn a minor degree concentration that complements the chosen major, and 60 credit hours to earn a major degree. The major degree hours can include up to 12 credits in a residency or work experience, up to nine hours earned in completing no more than six certifications related to the degree, and 300 and 400 level college work. Students can enroll in courses at more than one institution of higher education so long as the course credits are transferrable.

Students who are going to fall short in their final year of high school can submit a request to their school to continue on for a fifth year. The school does not have to accept.

Department of higher education must report annually to the legislature. Program repeals July 2030.

Additional Information:

Low-income students are defined as those eligible for free or reduced lunches.

School applications to the pilot program must, at a minimum, contain:

  • A description of the program and how it meets eligibility requirements
  • Number of students the school intends to accept into the program
  • Demographics of student population in previous three years, including percentage of low-income and minority students
  • The school’s four, five, and six year graduation rate, number of students who have graduated with either a post-secondary credential or at least 60 college credit hours, and if known, the number of students enrolled in post-secondary education within 12 months of graduation
  • Whether the applicant operates a concurrent enrollment or other dual enrollment program and if so, the number of students in the program and the institutions of higher education the school partners with to run it

If there are more than ten applicants for this program, the state must prioritize based on: schools with high-levels of low-income and minority students, schools with concurrent or dual enrollment programs, and schools with low four-year graduation rates and low rates of students enrolling in post-secondary education.

State must provide annual training for student advisory board members. This must include how to effectively advise and support students, explanations of secondary and post-secondary financing and student assistance, and how to work with schools and institutions of higher education to assist the student.

If a residency is included in the degree program, it must be specifically designed for the student and focus on things that will give the student an advantage in their chosen field. An employee of the business the student is working at must be assigned as the student’s work instructor and must be qualified as a career and technical education instructor.

Students are not required to pay any fees at an institution that do not directly relate to the course.

Schools must report to the state each student who is in this program. State must report to the legislature annually:

  • Number and name of schools participating and the number of students at each school
  • Non-identifying description of the individual degree programs and a report on each student’s progress toward achieving them, including how many are on-track to finish
  • Total number of students since the pilot began who: completed their program in four years, and those who required more than four years and the number of years required
  • Total amounts of grant assistance and per pupil funding in students’ degree accounts
  • Any additional information department of higher education believes is pertinent


Auto-Repeal: July 2030

Arguments For:

We know we have severe gaps in post-secondary enrollment when it comes to minority students and low-income students. 61% of white students graduating from high school in 2017 enrolled in post-secondary education, compared to 46% of Hispanic students, 55% of African-American students, and 38% of Native American students. Only 43% of low-income students enrolled. We also know that if a student completes more than 30 credits of post-secondary education while still in high school they are more likely to enroll. A major factor in all of this of course is student debt. Post-secondary education can be extremely expensive. So a way to attack all of these issues is to create a program that allows students to get that post-secondary degree while getting their high school degree that is geared toward students from low-income families. This directly attacks the population we are most concerned about and provides a way to earn a college degree for free by using the per-pupil money that would have gone entirely to the school (average of about $7,400 per student per year) and federal and state assistance programs. There are many professions where a combination of real-world skills and certificates are just as valuable as classroom learning (including many STEM professions) and we should be able to design programs that are true bachelor’s degrees while being attainable in the timeframe required. This sort of thing can, and has been, done. It of course requires an intense plan and commitment from the start of high school. This bill is also just a pilot program, to test out if this will in fact help these students.

Arguments Against:

This is an incredibly complicated setup with a lot of work for potentially very little reward in terms of number of students affected. A student would have to completely finish their college degree (including a minor!), while still in high school for this bill to have any affect at all, and that requires basically preparing for it beginning in 8th grade. Very few students will be either focused enough or interested enough in this path. You will need an enormous amount of parental and institutional support to pull this off as well as no need to earn income on summer and after-school jobs (it is no guarantee you are going to set up some sort of internship that is paid). It also can be a bad idea to lock someone into a college degree path when they are 13. A lot changes in those next four years and what once seemed desirable to a student may seem less so. Then upon graduation at age 18, they may be stuck with a degree they do not want. And they will have spent nearly every week of the past four years working toward this goal, at the exclusion of a lot of other things that make for a well-rounded life including athletics, extra-curricular activities, and just plain fun. Concurrent enrollment and dual degree associate programs (half the post-secondary credit needed) are a better path. Finally, we are in fact taking money away from our schools that they are supposed to use to teach our kids in high school. Note that the student is still leaning heavily on school resources and is likely taking some un-named number of classes at the school (a high school freshman is unlikely to be thrown into full-time college classes at the start). That money cannot be made up for in other areas.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1276

HB20-1288 Increase Curriculum Transparency School Literacy (Todd (D), Rankin (R)) [Rich (R)]

KILLED ON HOUSE CALENDAR

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Some on local schools to comply

Goal: Require schools to post reading curriculum and READ act statistics publicly on their websites.

Description:

Requires schools to post on their website their core and supplemental reading curriculum or a detailed description of it, by grade, used in each school. Also the core and supplemental reading instructional and intervention reading instruction, services, and supports in each school. Finally the number of students in K-3rd grade on READ plans and number of K-3 students who had READ plans but have achieved competency, as well as the school’s budget and narrative explanation for its used of READ Act intervention money.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is about sunshine. We recognize that we are not getting the results we want out of the READ act. The percentage of students who are below grade level has actually risen slightly since its introduction (part of this could be due to better identification of struggling students) and is now at 60%. Kids who fall behind early never really catch up, there are numerous studies that demonstrate this. And we also know that part of the problem, frankly again, is that some of the instruction is not right. This puts each school’s information in this area out in the public eye, where parents and advocates can see which schools are succeeding and which are not so we can apply pressure in the appropriate places. Remember that the state is limited in what it can dictate to local school districts.

Arguments Against:

Sunshine is meaningless without context and the data provided here does not provide context. First, the state knows these things already, so this is not exposing new information to policymakers. Second, every school serves a different population and every child’s situation is different. To just throw the numbers out there and expect people to be able to draw reasonable conclusions from them is not realistic. By all means we should (and have) change the READ act to provide more accountability and best-practices. But trying to publicly shame schools is not the way to make positive change.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1288

HB20-1295 Education Accountability And Accreditation Systems Audit (Todd (D)) [Bird (D), Wilson (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $450,000 spread over next two years

Goal: Do a thorough audit of the state’s K-12 accountability and accreditation systems.

Description:

Requires the state auditor to contract with either a public or private company to do an audit of our K-12 accountability and accreditation systems. The audit must address:

  • Effectiveness of accreditation system in objectively evaluating public school performance at all levels and in rewarding success and providing support for improvement
  • Whether the state’s growth model for measuring success is meeting other state requirements
  • Whether the accreditation system is standardized so that the requirements for moving from one level of performance to another remain consistent over time
  • How effective the accountability system is creating a seamless system of standards, expectations, and assessments at all levels and how effective it is at effectively and credibly measuring academic success
  • The interaction between the two systems and any conflicts between them
  • If the two systems provide a credible basis for comparison between and among public schools and between and among charter schools
  • Changes that have been made to the two systems since they were established in law

It is up to the state auditor to ensure that the third-party chosen has the required expertise to do the audit. Entity doing the audit is to be given complete access to all records in all school, including those that are exempt by law from warrant or subpoena. Audit must be completed by October 2021, then the auditor is to provide a report to the legislature, the state board of education, and the state commissioner of education.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

There have been numerous changes to both of these systems since they were created (2008 for accountability and 2009 for accreditation) and massive changes from the federal government in 2015 with the Every Student Succeeds Act. We therefore need a thorough x-ray of these systems to ensure that they are first and foremost meeting the goals set in the laws that established them and of course adhering to federal standards. But we also need to know if they are working as well as they could and if they work together as well as they could. We rely on these systems for quite a bit in our education system and it is worth paying for a real audit to get this right.

Arguments Against:

The problem with this is we are chasing the unobtainable. No standardized system is ever going to capture the true efficacy of a school or its teachers, or the true academic success of a student. There are just too many variables to consider. So the more we require rigid standards, the harder it is going to be to accurately evaluate everything. We need to get away from all of the testing and back to just teaching.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1295

HB20-1300 Changes To Local School Food Purchasing Program (Bridges (D), Coram (R)) [Buentello (D), Pelton (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Make some technical changes to local school purchasing program, add a preference for greater diversity and smaller providers in choosing among applicants, and allow the fund to use leftover money to pay for next year’s required evaluation of the program.

Description:

Makes changes to the local school purchasing program, in which schools can get reimbursement for purchase of Colorado grown, raised, or processed products. Changes maximum number of lunches done by providers in the previous year from seven to 10 million but limits individual providers to no more than 2.15 million lunches. Adds a preference for selecting applicants that served fewer than 1.25 million lunches in the previous year and that the state consider diversity in geographic location and pupil count. Changes reimbursement for lunches from a complicated formula based on proportionately to $0.05 per lunch. Any year where there are funds left in the program after all reimbursements, what is left can be used to pay for the annual evaluation of the program required by law in the next year.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The change to $0.05 merely codifies into law the basic practice of this program since it was created last year. The changes in caps allows more schools into the program, but it is still limited to $500,000 in total reimbursements in a year. It also makes sense to allow funds still in the program at the end of the year to be used for evaluation requirements in the next year, rather than having to use some of the next year’s funds. That could take away funds from a potential grantee.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1300

HB20-1301 Electronic Attendance In School District Board Meeting (Sonnenberg (R)) [McLachlan (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level

Goal: Allow electronic presence at school board meetings that allow it to count towards a quorum and require any member attending electronically to have real-time access to materials available to those attending physically.

Description:

Currently school boards can allow for electronic participation in a meeting but only consider the members who are physically present when determining a quorum. This bill changes this to consider member both physically and electronically present. It also requires any member attending electronically to have real-time access to any materials that are presented and available to members who are physically present at the meeting.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Note that no school board is required to allow electronic access. But if they do, electronic participation should be the same as physical participation, both when it comes to a quorum and being able to actually fully participate in the meeting. Current technology makes this easy enough to do.

Arguments Against:

This may discourage districts who are currently allowing electronic participation but feel they cannot meet the real-time requirement to stop allowing electronic participation all together and make it more difficult for their members.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1301

HB20-1312 Behavioral Health Training Requirements Educator License (Todd (D), Hisey (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Titone (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Increase behavioral health training in teachers by requiring part of continuing education requirements and part of curriculum for teacher preparation programs address behavioral health.

Description:

Requires teachers to obtain at least 10 hours of some form of behavioral health training as part of their 90 hour continuing education requirement for licensure. Training must be culturally responsive and trauma- and evidence-informed. Hours that meet this requirement can also meet other requirements set by the state. Also requires all teacher preparation courses to require students to complete at least one semester or ¼ length course in behavioral health training.

Additional Information:

Also tweaks the continuing education goal related to recognizing dangerous behavior in youth to include mental health, safe de-escalation, recognition of signs of poor mental health and substance abuse, support of children using culturally responsive and trauma- and evidence-informed practices, and when to refer a student for outside help. Specific programs to fulfill the ten hour requirement or teacher preparation requirement may include:

  • Mental health first aid specific for youth and teens
  • Staff development training on teen suicide prevention
  • Interconnected systems frameworks for positive behavioral interventions and supports and mental health
  • Training approved or provided by the teacher’s school district
  • Training concerning students with behavioral concerns or disabilities
  • Training concerning child traumatic stress
  • Resources concerning teacher and student adaption responses


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

One of the most important relationships our children have is with their teachers. During the school year they see our children as much if not more often than most parents and our teachers are relied on to not only teach learning but also discipline, focus, and social behaviors. So even if we lived in an ideal world where had armies of social workers and mental health professionals fanned out across all of our schools it would still behoove us to ensure that our teachers know best practices around behavioral health, including spotting warning signs of deeper problems. And of course we are not even close to that ideal world. Instead our teachers are often the only qualified adult who has a lot of interaction with our kids in schools and so it becomes even more critical that they have some appropriate training to help them with behavioral health issues. This bill does not add to the continuing education requirements at all, it merely focuses a small part of them (1/9th) in one direction. That, along with requiring more behavioral health training in our teacher education programs, should help better prepare our teachers to help all of our kids, including the ones that may need it the most.

Argument Against:

Our mental and behavioral health problems tend to flow from one source: resources. We do not invest enough resources at any level of our mental health system and therefore these are the results we get. So the solution is not to require this specialized training for our teachers, who would instead be free to spend their development time on other subjects, it is to provide more support, in the form of dollars, to our teachers and schools. Increase the number of social workers and mental health professionals in schools and let teachers teach.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1312

HB20-1336 Holocaust And Genocide Studies In Public Schools (Fenberg (D), Hisey (R)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Sirota (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require high schools to teach the Holocaust and genocide as part of the curriculum required to graduate.

Description:

Requires the state education board to develop standards that identify the knowledge students should acquire prior to graduating from high school about the Holocaust and genocide. State must develop and maintain a resource bank of materials for schools to use. These must represent best practices in teaching these subjects and the state is to seek input from experts in compiling the materials. Resource bank may also identify opportunities for experts to co-teach in state classrooms on the subject, including a listing of schools interested in such an arrangement. Standards and resources must be in place by July 2021 2022. Schools must incorporate standards into an existing course that is currently a condition of high school graduation.

Additional Information:

The resource bank must include, at a minimum: sample academic content and programs of instruction, sample learning resources including first-person testimony, sample materials for professional educator development, and case studies. State may accept gifts, grants, and donations to create bank.

Genocide is defined as:

  • Killing members of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group
  • Deliberately inflicting on a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  • Imposing measures to prevent births in a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group
  • Forcibly transferring children of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group to another group

The Armenian Genocide is specifically named as a qualifying subject. No other genocides other than the Holocaust are named specifically.


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

A recent survey found 41% of millennials believed fewer than 2 million Jews died in the Holocaust, 66% did not know what Auschwitz was, and 52% of all Americans wrongly believed Hitler came to power via force. Sending students out into the world without a fundamental understanding of not only the Holocaust but other genocides (including those happening in the world right now) is actually dangerous. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1336

HB20-1357 Media Literacy Implementation [Cutter (D), McLachlan (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal: Implement the recommendations of the media literacy advisory council so as to make media literacy part of the state’s education curriculum.

Description:

Requires the state of education to adopt revisions to its reading, writing, and civics standards that are substantially consistent with the recommendations of the media literacy advisory council. These ensure students can be critical consumers and creators of media, including forms beyond print text, can utilize active inquiry and critical thinking when assessing media, are aware of how to use media to be an engaged citizen, and develop good digital citizenship and anti-cyberbullying practices. New standards must be in place for 2022-23 school year. State must also develop an online resource bank of materials and resources to support these new standards and must incorporate resources the advisory committee has identified. State must also provide technical assistance to school districts that request it for implementing instruction of these new guidelines (subject to available resources).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

This is the result of a bill that was passed last year that directed the state to implement a media literacy program for K-12 education based on an advisory committee that bill created. We now have the report of the committee, so all this bill is doing is finishing the work of creating the new state standards and educational resources. Our fake information problem is only going to get worse. And it is not always malicious, sometimes people just don’t understand why a particular story is likely to be false (or that it has already been debunked) and share and spread it anyway. For our civic health we desperately need to be creating citizens who understand how to interact with information in today’s era and how to sift through the noise to find the truth.

Arguments Against:

We can still turn back and end this initiative by repealing last year’s bill. Our government should not be in the business of teaching our kids how to consume information online and how to tell if a story is “true” or “false”. This could be indoctrination, whereby the non-conservative forces in the media and our liberal government push their agenda onto our kids. They may be told to ignore conservative media, they may be told it is untrustworthy, and they may be told to credit more “mainstream” media outlets that many conservatives believe to be biased.


This is a worthy concept but an impossible one. When a large chunk of the country believes that the only valid sources of information are conservative media and the rest of the media is hopeless biased while another larger chunk believes most conservative media are propaganda, there is no way we are going to be able to teach the children of these two chunks media literacy in a neutral environment. One or both of these chunks are going to end up furious.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB1357

HB20-1418 Public School Finance (Todd (D)) [Becker (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: $702 million
Fiscal Impact: This is part of the budget process, the impact is best understood from the point of view of the budget bill

Goal: Fund K-12 schools for 2020-21 with the budget calamity in mind and put the ability for state lawmakers to force higher property tax rates on some districts in the state in the future.

Description:

The biggest long-term thing this bill does is force property tax changes around the state. This is extremely complicated, but the core of this is what is called “mills”, which are the amount the local government taxes for schools via property tax rates. More mills=higher taxes and more money for schools. Since the advent of TABOR, where the government has to give back excess revenue and voter approval is required to increase taxes, many school districts have decreased their mills after voters have allowed them to keep excess revenue for schools, and others have decreased their mills to avoid keeping any excess revenue. The state is required to backfill any shortage in education revenue through the budget, so any districts that are short will be made whole by the state (this is a constitutional requirement). This bill overrides all school district mill levies. For 2020, any district that has voter approval to keep excess revenue must set its mill at the lesser of: 27, the number necessary to fully fund the district, or the number of mills the district would have levied but for reductions after voter approvals to keep excess funds. Districts that do not have voter approval must set its mills at the lesser of: 27, number of mills in preceding tax year, or number of mills that creates maximum amount without triggering TABOR refunds. In 2021 all districts must set mills at lesser of: 27, number of mills in previous year, number needed to fully fund schools, or if the district doesn’t have voter approval to keep revenue, the number that creates maximum amount without triggering tabor refunds. However, the bill provides a mechanism in the form of tax credits to refund the difference in mill levies to taxpayers, so the net effect for now would be nothing. Remove the credits in the future, though, and taxes would rise.

In terms of the actual spending this year, the bill increases the base per pupil funding by $132.08 to account for inflation as required by law. But it decreases overall funding by $610 million, before considering the $510 million in federal CARES act money and $109 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. The net effect is basically even, no cut to overall funding so long as all of the federal money can be spent (there are rules around CARES funds and the emergency relief funds). The bill increases the so-called negative factor, money owed to the schools under the state constitution, by $612 million to $1.18 billion. It is unclear if all of the federal money we are using to make up the $612 million difference (see below) will count or not. The bill also has all schools use the 2018-19 budget year for per-pupil counts for READ act money, instead of the current year.

The bill also makes $11.4 million in cuts to programs, delays to programs, and sweeps of funds out of programs (see Additional Information for more detail). It also cuts $135 million from the Building Excellent Schools Today fund, transfers $100 million from the fund to the public school fund, and diverts revenue above $40 million from the marijuana excise tax fund from the Building fund into the public school fund. It also takes $2.5 million from the marijuana cash fund and $2.5 million from the High Cost Special Education Trust Fund (created in 2019).

To account for COVID disruptions, all accreditation ratings or recommended school plans are suspended for 2020-21. A stakeholder group must be convened by the state by September 15 to figure out how to deal with remote learning, accountability, assessments, accreditation, and educator evaluations for the next school year.

Additional Information:

Exact program cuts are as follows:

  • $3.5 million from the early literacy fund
  • $250,000 from school counselor corps grant program that assists students with completing state and federal financial aid forms (100%)
  • $250,000 from computer science education grant program to increase enrollment of traditionally underrepresented students in computer science

Delayed programs include:

  • K-5 Social Emotional Health pilot program to increase number of social workers in schools ($2.5 million and 1 full-time employee). Pilot will begin when it has enough funds from appropriations or gifts, grants, and donations
  • Local School Food Purchasing which provides incentive reimbursements and grants ($675,000 and 0.4 full-time employee)

Repealed programs include:

  • Grow Your Own Educator program to help create a pipeline of teachers going back into rural schools ($1.2 million and 0.3 full-time employee)
  • AP Incentives pilot program due to expire in July 2021 ($263,000 and 0.3 full-time employee)
  • Inactive School Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automatic External Defibrillator Training Fund ($98,000)
  • Inactive Closing the Achievement Gap Cash Fund ($59,000)

Funds from which any unencumbered money is removed include:

  • Retaining Teachers Fund ($2.5 million)
  • Full-Day Kindergarten Facilities Capital Construction Fund ($185,000)
  • Great Teachers and Leaders Fund ($23,000)
  • Nonpublic School Fingerprint Fund ($16,000)
  • Teacher of the Year Fund ($12,000)
  • Student Re-engagement Grant Program Fund ($9,000)


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

In terms of funding, this is about the best we can do in a bad situation. We had a $3.3 billion shortfall and education is 36% of our budget (due in large part to the vastly increased amounts the state has to contribute over the years because of falling property tax revenues). The federal money should help offset a large chunk of these cuts. For the mill changes, this is a complex problem that is decades in the making. Before TABOR, in 1991, all school districts in the state were either at 40 mills or what was required to fully fund the district. TABOR made it impossible to take in that much revenue, so property taxes were slashed everywhere. Some districts are now near 0 (rates were frozen in 2007 by the state). The state now provides 61% of education funding, an amount that continues to grow over time and has become completely untenable (as the negative factor proves). In practice we also now have vastly different funding mechanisms all over the state, with some places keeping excess revenue and spending more on their schools and some places not, and therefore relying much more heavily on the state to fill in the difference. In essence, large parts of this state are subsidizing the low-tax decisions of a few places. 39 districts in the state are at 27 mills and we have 34 districts who are below 17 (everyone else is obviously in-between). While this bill doesn’t unleash the forced increases yet, the tool is there if we need it. And given that next year’s budget is likely to be much worse than this year with potentially no federal help, we may need it soon. Legally, there is precedent from a 2009 state Supreme Court decision that in this case where constitutional provisions conflict (there are parts of the constitution mandating certain spending on K-12 education) that the TABOR requirement that voters approve new taxes would yield to education requirements. So yes, we’ll get sued if the taxes ever do go up (if the credits are removed). But we are likely to win and we may get sued if don’t do this because education funding won’t match what is required by the constitution.

Arguments Against:

Education should have been an even higher priority in this year’s budget. That federal money has extremely restrictive strings on it (must be spent by end of year, must be on COVID-related items) and is likely not to fill the gap we have created. There are good programs being destroyed and defunded, and more importantly each school in the state is going to have less money next year.


The mill levy scheme here is dubious constitutionally and plain wrong by the spirit of TABOR. Coloradans have made it clear: voters want to approve any tax increases. What this bill does is provide an end-around, potentially raising property taxes without asking the voters for approval. It is not at all clear that this would survive a court challenge as it clearly violates TABOR. But even if it did, it is a betrayal of what the voters want.


Schools need to do a better job of spending the money we give them: less on administration on more on things to do with direct contact with kids. We also have an acknowledged issue with the formula used to distribute the funds amongst districts, at least among most districts in the state. But this bill ducks that decision, which could have, among other things, moved $68 million from wealthier school districts (that get higher funding levels due to higher costs of living) to rural districts that are going to get hit harder by these cuts simply due to their size.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB20-1418

SB20-009 Expand Adult Education Grant Program (Zenzinger (D), Rankin (R)) [McLachlan (D), Catlin (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED

Appropriation: $500,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Expand existing adult education grant program to include providers that assist adults in obtaining basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Description:

Expand the existing adult education and literacy grant program to include “education attainment partnerships”: programs that assist adults in obtaining basic literacy and numeracy skills that lead to additional skill acquisition and may lead to postsecondary credentials and employment. The program already has “workforce development partnerships”. Appropriates $500,000 to the program.

Additional Information:

  • Education attainment partnerships must consist of a least one adult education provider not already eligible for this grant program that partners with at least one elementary or secondary school or school district, a public or private institution of higher learning, a local district college, or an area technical college.
  • Grant applicants must also now demonstrate that they are experienced adult education providers with strong record of providing education, career, and supportive service navigation to assist adults in obtaining these skills but can also just demonstrate ability to help adults engage in civic activities or support their own children in achieving academic success.
  • Evaluation of grant proposals must now include percentage of adults in the area to be served who have not completed 9th grade and are not enrolled in or completed any adult education and literacy programs and if the provider

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We already know how crippling lacking a high school diploma can be for adults looking for work. But extensive research also shows educational attainment is a key factor in the success of people’s children. We therefore need a two-generation approach to increasing literacy and numeracy skills to help break the cycle of poverty. But the current grant program is really designed for adults who already have those basic skills and are trying to make that next step to higher-level employment. This bill expands the program to get adults who haven’t even completed 9th grade so they can acquire the basic skills needed as a base to build upon. This not only helps the adult, but also helps them be a better advocate for their children and a better citizen in our society.

Arguments Against:

This bill expands the grant program scope without providing it with any more resources. Adding another priority to the existing program will add more competition for its resources and that may draw resources away This may distract this program from the first goal: workforce development, particularly since the grant criteria now includes levels of 9th grade achievement.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-009

SB20-014 Excused Absences In Public Schools For Behavioral Health (Fields (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D)]

From the School Safety Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriations: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Increase kids mental well-being and lower suicide risks by allowing students to take mental health days off school without penalty.

Description:

Requires all state schools to allow temporary absences due to behavioral health concerns without penalty. No limit on number of days taken.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This is an emerging concept, but not new and not a red or blue state phenomenon. Utah passed a similar law two years ago and Oregon passed one last year. Other states are also trying to get similar laws passed right now. The bottom line is that teen suicide is an epidemic in this country, along with more publicized school shootings. Experts cannot agree on an answer to this problem, but a real part of it is the stigma associated with asking for help and taking the time to get it. The more we can recognize this as a real problem that needs real help (not just “get tougher” vagaries) the more likely teens are to seek out that help before tragedy strikes. And on an even more basic level, we know that better mental health leads to better outcomes in academics, social relationships, and extra-curricular activities. As for not having limits, you cannot put a timer on someone’s mental health. We obviously reject the idea that physical ailments have clocks and you always are better within a set number of days. Mental health is no different. Kids should go to school when they are able to. Without a doubt there will be some kids that take advantage of this setup. But they are kids who probably could already take advantage of other ways to get excused absences. We must not let a few people abusing the system stop us from helping a lot more.

Arguments Against:

There are no guide rails in the bill to prevent unlimited (in theory) mental health days. Oregon’s bill limited students to ten mental health days every six months. The stigma issue may also not go the way the bill intends. Mental health stigma is a societal issue that won’t easily go away.


Taking days off for mental health may stigmatize the kids who use them in the eyes of their peers and the faculty. There are, of course, already existing ways to take mental health days without telling the school. Calling in sick when you are not physically ill is one well-known tactic. And this may not be the best preparation for someone’s future as an adult. Many workplaces do not tolerate taking multiple days off for mental health rejuvenation.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-014

SB20-015 Student Access To Transportation To Other Schools (Hill (R)) [Humphrey (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriations: None
Fiscal Impact: None overall, but individual districts may be impacted

Goal: Allow school districts to pay to transport kids who qualify for school lunch aid or have special needs into their district from any other district in the state without approval of the home district.

Description:

Allows school districts to supply transportation or reimburse parents for transportation for kids who are not in the district and are either eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch or have special needs. It does not require the approval of the student’s home district.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

This bill can help parents choose the best school for their child with special needs without worrying about paying for getting the kid to school. It can also help those who don’t have the means to send their kid to private school or to choice into a school that is not near them, but do not want to use their local school to find a school that best suits their child and potentially increase the diversity of other schools. Choice will help us get the best possible outcome for all of these kids. And it is entirely optional: no school has to pay to transport a child into their district. The choice is up to the school. As for not requiring the approval of the home district, it is time to stop allowing districts to veto the choice of parents and other districts in the state so they can get more money from having a higher number of pupils.

Arguments Against:

This bill could allow one school district with declining enrollments to poach kids from other districts to increase their state funding. While it may be optional for the district transporting the child in, it does not require the approval of the district that is losing the child. It will also advantage districts who already have large amounts of resources to afford the transportation, furthering the disadvantage schools with fewer resources already have. It could have devastating impacts on schools with high numbers of children that qualify for school lunches, encouraging downward spirals of some kids leaving prompting parents to pull more kids out. And it could encourage turf wars between districts, as they battle back and forth. We could particularly see this play out in athletics, where the wealthy districts poach top athletes (something that already happens to some degree, but would be made worse by this bill).

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-015

SB20-016 Notify If School Employee Gives Drugs To Students (Rankin (R), Fields (D)) [Soper (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Notify parents if a school employee is charged with distributing controlled drugs, marijuana, or alcohol to a student.

Description:

Changes required notifications from schools to parents to add if an employee is charged with selling, dispensing, distributing, or transferring illegal drugs or controlled prescription substances or marijuana or providing alcohol to a student who is a minor. Does not apply to school personnel who in are compliance with rules related to medical marijuana.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The point of these notifications (currently exist for felony offenses related to violence, drugs, or unlawful sexual behavior) is that parents have a right to know if a potentially dangerous individual had contact with their kids and that the situation is dealt with in an appropriate and transparent manner. It is perfectly appropriate to add illicit drugs and alcohol to this list (marijuana falls into a similar category as alcohol, it is not legal for kids to use) as parents have the right to know if drug distribution from trusted adults has potentially happened around their kids.

Arguments Against:

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 entire concept violates and so we should not be expanding it, we should be repealing it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-016

SB20-023 Colorado Working Group On School Safety (Gardner (R), Gonzales (D)) [Michaelson Jenet (D), Van Winkle (R)]

From the School Safety Committee

AMENDED: Significant (magnitude change)

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Minimal next year

Goal: Use best, cost-effective, practices across the state for student safety in schools by empowering a working group on a host of safety-related issues.

Description:

Creates the Colorado Interagency Working Group on School Safety. Group consists of six seven members from state government agencies, four members from police and schools appointed by governor, and four legislators. Group is tasked with enhancing school safety through cost-effective use of public resources and is empowered to make some changes on its own, in regards to minimum safety standards, standardized language and procedures around threats, and approved vendors and tools. Also empowered to implement recommendations made by the state auditor last September. Group is only to study lockdown drills, better cross-entity communications, data sharing, services, and transparency, identify shared metrics to examine program effectiveness, consider program organization and recommend reorganization if necessary, implementing the recommendations of the state auditor from last year, and minimum standards and guidelines for threat assessment tools. Group must also identify evidenced-based school safety best practices and rank them. Set for sunset review repeal in September 2023. Group begins meeting in 2021.

Additional Information:

Group may contract with a consultant if it deems it necessary. No compensation for members but can be reimbursed for travel expenses. Group must report monthly on aggregated behavioral and risk assessment data and annually on its findings and recommendations. Group is allowed to accept gifts and donations to fund its work. Must meet at least quarterly. Exact composition is as follows:

  • Commissioner of education (chair)
  • Executive director of department of public safety(chair)
  • Executive director of department of public health and environment
  • Executive director of department of human services
  • Attorney general (vice chair)
  • Director of school safety resource center
  • The state architect
  • Appointed by governor: School district superintendent from a suburban or urban area and one from a rural area, chief of police, and a county sheriff
  • Two members appointed by Senate majority leader and minority leader: either a student that attended a school during a shooting or a parent with a child at a school during a shooting
  • One legislative member each appointed by speaker of house, majority leader of senate, and minority leader of house and senate (all from own chamber)


Auto-Repeal: Sunset Review September 2023

Arguments For:

Ensuring the safety of our students, teachers, and other school employees while at school is one the most important tasks of our state government. But we live in a world of limited resources and, at the moment, a lot of different ideas about how to best achieve safety with those resources. These ideas are being field tested all over the country, not to mention a variety of different approaches across the state. We know all school districts in the state are not following safety recommendation from the attorney general’s office. So the time to let every district decide on its own what to do is past. We therefore need a group comprised of the most important agencies and representatives of schools, police, and the legislature empowered to increase coordination across the state, find best practices, and find the best ways to spend our resources to keep everyone as safe as possible. Nothing this group will do is something the department of education could not do on its own, so there is no usurpation of legislative authority, merely a re-focusing of that authority with the critical added component of experts in other associated fields. We can do all of this while continuing to implement safety policies we think will be effective, even as the entire issue is studied in more depth.

Arguments Against:

Working groups like this should not be empowered to make any changes on their own. That power should flow through the legislature and the agency to which the legislature has given executive authority. But this bill empowers the group with the authority of the department of education to make the changes the bill lays out without any consultation outside of the group of 14. Only four people on this committee are really part of that department and only two of them actually work in schools. If the legislature wants to have a task force to study best practices that is fine and good. But if the legislature wants actual changes made that directly affect school operation, then the department of education should be doing that work.


Education is a matter for local control. What works best in one area may not work well in another. We need to leave the critical matter of safety to the people on the scene who are best suited to decide what will work and what won’t. We need an approach more like SB026, which allows each district to do its own in-depth inspection of its schools and make its own decisions about what to do to increase safety.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-023

SB20-027 School District School Safety Plans (Crowder (R))

AMENDED: Significant

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Estimated $200 to $400 million in fiscal year 2021-22.

Goal: Evaluate every public school in the state for safety and make changes based on the evaluation

Description:

Requires each school district to contract with a safety specialist ask department of homeland security to evaluate and make recommendations for safety in each public school in the district. This must be done by the end of the year. The specialists will present their findings to the district (by end of June 2021), which must then decide which recommendations to take and which to reject and send its decisions to the state board of education (by end of August 2021). The board of education must then decide which of these recommendations it will accept (by end of 2021) and then provide each school district with the funds to implement any recommendations the board accepts.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: July 2022

Arguments For:

Every school is different and faces different safety challenges. In order to ensure better safety, we need a 3rd party expert to take a deep look at every school. Then each school board will be positioned to make an informed decision on what changes need to be made, without the worry that they won’t be able to pay for it. The ultimate approval of course still rests with the state board of education, which can decide what it can and can’t pay for (and what it thinks is and isn’t a positive change). But the key to this bill is empowering people on the ground in the district to make decisions about the safety of their schools, rather than top-down mandates from the state that may not fit every situation. We know we are going to spend a chunk of money on school safety, we’ve spent tens of millions every year for the past few years. So the money will be there, let’s use it wisely.

Arguments Against:

This is a potentially mess and massively expensive. First, there is no uniformity of safety specialist required, each district is free to contract any specialist and there are no standards in the bill for what a safety specialist is. That means we could get widely varying levels of inspection across the state with specialists who have very different ideas about safety. Second, the initial decision on recommendations is left to the district. Different districts may take vastly different approaches to this, with the result that some good recommendations are not passed along to the state board, which is powerless to reach back and approve recommendations it does not receive. Third, the final decision rests with the state board but it is given no guidelines on prioritization. We could probably spend billions of dollars to upgrade school safety across the state, but we simply can’t. There is no way to estimate how much would be spent but full implementation across the state would cost $200 to $400 million in one year, according to the non-partisan legislative council staff. This bill also potentially conflicts with SB023’s concept of a centralized working group determining best practices. We should let group do its work so we have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-027

SB20-050 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit (Woodward (R))

*THIS BILL IS IDENTICAL TO HB1125, ALSO SPONSORED BY SENATOR WOODWARD*

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $22 million lost revenue a year at full implementation. Around $1 million a year in expenditures to administer program.

Goal: Give teachers state tax credits for out-of-pocket money spent on school supplies.

Description:

Eligible educators can already claim up to a $250 federal income tax deduction for the purchase of school supplies and certain professional development courses. This bill creates a state income tax credit for expenses over that $250 federal cap, up to $750. Amount of the credit that exceeds the educator’s income taxes is refunded.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: January 2029

Arguments For:

Educators frequently have to purchase supplies out of their own pockets, and the $250 federal deduction is nice, but not sufficient. A survey in 2018 found that 94% of teachers spent their own money on school supplies without reimbursement from the school, with an average amount spent of $479. This bill should help more teachers fully cover their supply purchases, which deals with the world we live in, not the world we wish we had (where teachers didn’t have to go out-of-pocket at all).

Arguments Against:

It’s nice to do more to recognize teachers’ out-of-pocket spending but what we really need to be doing is putting more money into our schools so that teachers do not have to do this at all. It is unfair to them and unfair to students, whose supply levels may depend on how generous their teacher is. The $22 million estimated cost in lost tax revenue at full-implementation will have to come from somewhere and there is no guarantee it won’t come out of education.


This is part of the profession. The 94% number says it all, this is an expectation for teachers. That expectation is already baked into the job and the salary. We should not be further supplementing teacher incomes by giving them further tax credits. If a teacher does not like these minor out-of-pocket expenses then they can switch professions.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-050

SB20-052 Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program (Coram (R), Zenzinger (D)) [Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: Significant

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: $6 $2 million a year for the next three years, $18 $6 million total
Fiscal Impact: Nothing beyond appropriated funds

Goal: Make schools buses safer through a grant program.

Description:

Creates the Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program to award three year grants to school districts for the provision of hardware and software that will allow buses to communicate directly with first responders by voice communication and a silent alarm, maintenance and training, including training for drivers for dealing with students with special needs and background checks for drivers, and secure parental notification. Program funded with $6 $2 million in general fund money for each of the next three years. State must also contract with a third-party consultant. This can be a for- or non-profit entity and must have expertise in evidence-based school bus safety and surface transporation security, child safety campaign management, and conducting fund-raising campaigns that support safety-related initiatives. and In addition to helping implement the grant progam, the consultant is also tasked with seeking out gifts, grants, and donations from other public and private sources, including developing private-public partnership funding. They are to be paid $1 million a year from the appropriated funds (half).

Additional Information:

State is enter into an agreement with a program administrator, who must be a public benefit corporation with at least one employee who is assigned to work on the pilot program with at least seven years of experience in school bus safety, surface transportation security, child safety management, and conducting fundraising campaigns that support safety-related initiatives. There is no cap on the amount of appropriated money the administrator can use on running the program, which includes Specific duties of the consultant include:

  • School district notification, assistance in grant completion, and support
  • Developing and maintaining a website to provide secure and verifiable parental notification relating to school bus and student status (must be at no cost to parents)
  • Recruiting school bus drivers
  • Developing and making publicly available school bus transportation safety information and educational materials
  • Developing public-private partnership funding and seeking new funding sources from federal government, corporations, and other non-governmental entities

Grant criteria to be developed by state, but must include a process for achieving balanced distribution to rural, urban, and suburban school districts. Grantees must report each year to the administrator: number of buses equipped with communications equipment, whether any was used in an emergency, any maintenance or operations decisions made based on information learned from equipment acquired by grant money, and any other use of grant money. Program administrator Consultant must report annually to the legislature. Any organization wishing to become the consultant must apply to state. Application must include: demonstration of required experience, description of any public service campaigns conducted, demostrated ability to raise funds from various other sources, and any other information required by state.


Auto-Repeal: August 2024

Arguments For:

Buses are one of the least secure targets for potential attackers. We need to get ahead of the game by securing them as much as possible with direct communications equipment to first responders and appropriate training. The technology envisioned in this program will know where the bus is at all times via GPS, which of course will also help first responders in an accident situation, and the companion website/app will help parents know if and when their children got off the bus. The consultant is a potential money multiplier. By paying them we can turn our $2 million into much larger sums of money so that in the end we come out ahead on the $1 million diverted to the consultant. We also need someone with expertise to help implement this program so it will work correctly, so we will have to pay someone to do this.

Arguments Against:

This is too many bells and whistles for school buses, which despite the large increase in attacks involving schools in the past few years have not been a target. Obviously that does not preclude them from being targeted in the future, but given limited resources and vast needs for safety upgrades at schools around the state, we need to be prioritizing our resources elsewhere.


This bill does not do enough to ensure that funds are actually reaching school districts to do what the bill proposes and upgrade buses. There is no limitation on how much of the money can be used to pay the program administrator and no limitation on how much of the money the administrator can use to administer the program (as is frequently the case is these type of bills). The consultant gets half the money no matter what kind of job they do fundraising more money. We should instead tie their compensation to how much money they bring into the program in a pure commission based structure.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-052

SB20-066 Highly Effective Teachers And Low-Performing Schools (Priola (R)) [Buentello (D), Saine (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $4 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Incentivize highly effective teachers to work in low-performing elementary and middle schools through bonuses.

Description:

Creates the Highly Effective Teacher Incentives Program to allow school districts to offer specified monetary bonuses to work in low-performing schools. Money cannot be used to boost base salary. Low-performing schools are schools that are required to implement a school priority improvement plan or a school turnaround plan by the state due to poor performance evaluations. Bill appropriates $4 million to fund program. Money distributed as grants in two two-year cycles ($2 million each cycle). Teachers must be rated as highly effective over at least three consecutive years to be eligible (and maintain the rating to stay eligible). $12,000 to teachers who start teaching at low-performing elementary schools, $8,000 for starting at a low-performing middle or junior high school, $6,000 for teachers staying in low-performing elementary schools, and $3,000 for teachers staying in low-performing middle or junior high schools. Transfers can keep their higher bonuses in the second cycle if they and the school still qualifies. Department of education must report to the legislature in 2025.

Additional Information:

Report to the legislature must include:

  • List of schools that received grants, amount of bonuses paid, and changes in performance plan
  • Total number of teachers who received a bonus, the subject areas they taught, number of students taught and their academic growth
  • Number of teachers who received bonuses in both grant cycles at the same school


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We all know how much difference a great teacher can make, particularly at lower grades where kids are at their most impressionable. And although there are exceptions, in general low-performing schools are likely to have more ineffective and inexperienced teachers. This can cause a vicious cycle, where a school has a harder time attracting good teacher talent because of its overall performance and thus the performance gets worse. We need to incentivize highly effective teachers to work in these lower performing schools to try to close any achievement gaps and raise the academic achievement of the students in these schools. It is also important to approach this in the world that we live in, not the world we wish we had. We simply don’t have the money to dramatically raise teacher salaries across the board, we have to pick and choose. And what better way than to get great teachers into schools that need them?

Arguments Against:

The problem is that the ground this bill rests on is fundamentally flawed. The rating systems used by the state is too flawed a base to place stakes this high on. You just cannot capture the quality of a teacher through the raw numbers, there are too many other variables at play. Also, teaching isn’t sales. Unreliable bonuses subject to annual appropriations, grant approvals, and schools actually staying at the low-performance level (teachers actually have the perverse incentive to stay low-performing so they can continue to qualify for bonuses) are not the building blocks of financial stability. We need to stop nibbling around the edges with schemes to reward a few teachers here and there. This program could support 165 teachers each two-year cycle at the full bonus amount and although we don’t know exactly how many teachers would qualify, we do know there are 45 qualifying schools and, as a rough extrapolation from the total number of schools and teachers in the state, around 1,275 teachers in those schools. Instead we need to start fundamentally investing in paying all of our teachers more money.


This program completely excludes high school, which is still an important part of our children’s education. We have poorly performing high schools too.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-066

SB20-072 Human Sexuality Education Notification Requirement (Gardner (R)) [Larson (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible at school level

Goal: Increase notification requirements to parents for sex education classes.

Description:

Makes a few changes to the required notification for parents of sex education classes and the ability for parents to opt-out. Bill requires an electronic notification in addition to the written notification, sent separately from any other school notifications and including the date the planned curriculum will be taught, to be sent at least 90 days before the beginning of instruction. Any materials used during the curriculum must be available online at least 90 days prior to commencement as well, including audio and visual resources, written handouts, teacher and consultant scripts, lesson plans, and student questionnaires.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The current notification system is inadequate for something as important as sex education. This is a huge issue to parents who do not want their children exposed to this (and have the right to opt-out) and the current system has no required time before instruction when a notification must be sent, no requirement for electronic notification, and no requirement for a separate notification. Taken together, this in theory means it is possible for a school to send home the notification with the child as one sheet among many the day before instruction is to start. In addition, for parents who care about this it is critically important exactly what is being taught to their children. They deserve the ability to see the curriculum beforehand in detail, not to try to exercise control over it but so they can make an informed decision about their child’s education.

Arguments Against:

There is a limit to how many hoops we need to make schools jump through. Current notification already requires a detailed, substantive outline of the topics and materials to be presented during the planned lessons. Parents don’t need to see the exact materials, we all know the basics of what is going to be taught and the outline fills in any details. Written notification is already required. It is the parent’s job to read notifications sent by the school, we don’t need extra notifications and extra slots held open just for this. Parents don’t get veto power over the curriculum here, as offering it up online 90 days prior to commencement would almost certainly invite. Either you are in or you are out for sex education. It is really that simple.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-072

SB20-073 No 529 Account Income Tax Deduction for K-12 Expenses (Pettersen (D), Story (D)) [Buentello (D), Cutter (D)]

AMENDED: Moderate

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: $11,040
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Clarify that for state tax purposes, any 529 account contributions made for K-12 education are not tax deductible.

Description:

Contributions made to 529 accounts for K-12 education expenses were made tax deductible for federal taxes in 2017. This bill clarifies that these expenses are not tax deductible for state income tax purposes. Also requires a quarterly report from CollegeInvest containing information for 529 qualified state tuition program account holders, beneficiaries and donors state determines is necessary to verify the law is being followed.

Additional Information:

Quarterly report must include:

  • Name and social security number of the account holder of each qualified 529 account holder and beneficiary
  • Contribution data, including amount, date, and source of each contribution from a Colorado resident, including social security number of contributor and if they intend to use the tax deduction
  • Name and social security number of the account holder of each qualified 529 account holder who is a Colorado resident and makes an unqualified distribution, as well as reason for distribution. Distribution data of the amount of each distribution, date, and reason.

Arguments For:

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. This bill ensures we don’t allow that in Colorado law, whatever the case may be federally and that state law is being followed.

Arguments Against:

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. This bill closes off the ability for parents who want to spend money on their children’s education a tax-free way to save for it. It also is an unwarranted invasion of privacy of 529 account holders and people donating to these accounts.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-073

SB20-074 Bonuses For Highly Effective Teachers (Lundeen (R)) [Williams (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $57 million at full implementation

Goal: Reward teachers who are rated as highly effective through a bonus program based on significant state funding.

Description:

Creates a highly effective teacher bonus and incentive program that allows public and charter schools to pay bonuses or provide employment incentives to teachers who rate as “highly effective” for the most recently completed school year by the state mandated performance evaluation system. School districts are given $20,000 and $850 per teacher in their district for the program (this makes a total of about $57 million), subject to appropriations. If the legislature appropriates less than the full amount, the state must reduce proportionally. They cannot use the funds for anything other than either paying bonuses to highly effective teachers or paying a signing bonus to recruit a highly effective teacher. Bonus does not affect base pay rates. Each school district must report back to the state and the state must summarize these reports for the legislature.

Additional Information:

Report from the schools must include:

  • Number of highly effective teachers employed and amount of bonus paid to each
  • Number of highly effective teachers hired by the district, if any, and any bonus amounts spent on them
  • Any portion of the funds that were not spent


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We all recognize that some teachers are better than others, but the current remuneration system based on tenure makes it difficult to use money to try to keep or entice exceptional teachers. Since we already have an evaluation system, nothing more is needed to figure out who the exceptional teachers are, all we need is a way to reward them. Based on data from the last available year, 2016-17, 48% of teachers were rated as highly effective, which means each of them would get about a $2,000 bonus on average. That is what this bill provides, in an amount sufficient enough to really matter. We also are trying to help schools create more of a market for these highly rated teachers by distributing the money based on school size, rather than based on where the teachers are currently. Schools with fewer than expected highly rated teachers trying to attract more to their school may be able to pay higher amounts to bring them. The end effect is really good teachers getting paid more than teachers who are not as good. This is basically the way the free market works in most industries and it is one of the core reasons why the free market works so well. You get rewarded for good work.

Arguments Against:

This money will not come out of thin air, since it is not funded by a revenue source it will come out of some other program, in all likelihood, our education budget. So we will be taking $57 million away from something and giving it to these teachers. That something may impact the salaries of all teachers (lowering the entire base so we can redistribute the $57 million to highly effective ones), the bill does not prohibit it. The bill also does not allocate funding based on the number of highly effective teachers but based on the school’s size. So some schools will get too much funding and will either sit on the money (bill lets them keep it, although they cannot spend it on anything else) or pay out their teachers at a higher rate and some schools will not get enough money and will have to shortchange some of their teachers. The entire thought process behind rating teachers is flawed anyway. You just cannot capture the quality of a teacher through the raw numbers, there are too many other variables at play. Pay all of our teachers more money and we'll get better results.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-074

SB20-081 School Information For Apprenticeship Directory (Danielson (D), Bridges (D)) [Sullivan (D), Larson (R)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require high schools and school districts to have a point of contact to be published in the state’s apprenticeship directory.

Description:

Requires each high school and school district in the state to designate a contact person for the state’s apprenticeship directory. This person’s name, e-mail address, and phone number will be listed in the directory. This must be updated each year.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

The apprenticeship directory is designed to offer a complete guide to all such programs in the state and frequently those who want to take advantage of apprenticeships are those graduating high school and not pursuing higher education. Having one person at each school responsible for coordinating contact between programs and parents and students will help all parties involved. It is important to remember that the job of our K-12 education system is to prepare our kids to be functioning adults in our society and that does not always mean more education. This helps the school fill a critical role in aiding students who want to go straight into the workforce and the district ensure that as a whole it is able to work with these programs.

Arguments Against:

We shouldn’t have both someone from the high school and someone from the school district. That could lead to confusion, if the two individuals are not aware of exactly what is going on with each other in terms of working with programs or with parents and students. Just one contact at the high school is sufficient.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-081

SB20-089 Educator Pay Raise Fund (Danielson (D), Garcia (D)) [Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

KILLED ON SENATE CALENDAR

Appropriation: $15 million annually from public school lands income
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Increase salaries for educators across Colorado with tapered financial assistance from the state government.

Description:

Creates a program to provide financial support for school districts and charter schools to raise teacher salaries and other employee wages to a set minimum amount ($40,000 annually adjusted for inflation for teacher salaries and $15 per hour, also annually adjusted for inflation, for other employees). State provides full amount required to bridge the difference in the first year, then a diminishing amount individually determined for each district by the state board of education until the district supports the increase on its own without state help, as determined by the state board. Funded by Educator Pay Raise Fund, which automatically receives the greater of 10% the gross amount of public school lands income (state trust lands, public schools own 95% of them, that are leased to others) received during the budget year or $15 million. Board is to prioritize schools that demonstrate the greatest financial need. Schools must report annually on how the funds are being used, which the board must present to the legislature. In order to stay in the program schools must keep salaries/wages at the inflation adjusted levels required by the bill, and state must determine if extent to which the school is meeting the benchmarks in their plan.

Additional Information:

Money from public school lands income can be taken from any single source or combination of sources of public school lands income. At the moment, 50% goes to the BEST school construction fund, any other amounts left over after operational costs and maintenance goes to the public school permanent fund. Last year nearly $67 million went into the permanent fund.

Non-teacher employees are defined as person employed by a school district or charter school that provides one of the following:

  • Paraprofessional services
  • Clerical services
  • Custodial and maintenance services
  • Food services
  • Transportation services
  • Technical services
  • Skilled trade services
  • Security services
  • Health and student services

Applicants must provide:

  • Whether they seek to raise teacher salaries, employee wages, or both
  • Budget for each of the three previous years including amount applicant receives in state shares, additional revenue from property taxes, amount from gifts, grants or donations, amount of reserves, amount of any unexpended roll-over amounts, and the amount and overall percentage of teacher salaries and/or employee benefits (depending on what schools are applying for)
  • Whether the applicant operates under a collective bargaining agreement and if so, the last time educator salaries were negotiated
  • Source of funding and plan for increasing the applicant’s share of the cost burden, including eventual solo-funding without state help
  • Any additional information required by board

If the applicant wants to increase teacher salary it must provide:

  • Number of teachers employed in each of the last three years and amount of salary paid to each teacher
  • Number of vacancies applicant has been unable to fill for longer than one budget year
  • Applicant’s plan for increasing minimum teacher salaries including addressing impact on salary schedule for all of the applicant’s teachers

If the applicant wants to increase employee wages it must provide:

  • Number of employees, reported by employee type, applicant employed in each of the last three years and the hourly wage paid to each employee
  • Number of employee vacancies, reported by employee type, the applicant has been unable to fill for longer than one budget year
  • Plan for increasing minimum hourly wage, including impact on the wages of all employees

State must determine greatest financial need by examining:

  • Schools that receive less than 5% of its funding from local property tax
  • Number of teachers currently paid below minimum amount
  • Applicant’s ability to obtain voter approval for property tax increases for school funding, as demonstrated by past history in this area
  • Assessed property value for the previous three years of property taxes
  • Amount applicant receives from private gifts, grants, and donations
  • Amount and purpose of reserves and amount of unspent money from one budget year to next


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We simply do not pay our teachers enough. Colorado has one of the strongest economies in the country and yet multiple studies show us doing slightly below average at best when it comes to various teacher pay comparisons to other states. Perhaps the worst is the comparison of what teachers make in this state as a starting salary ($33,400) versus the average salary for all occupations. While it might not be a complete apples-to-apples comparison, finishing dead-last is still a bad thing. The same study found that if a teacher moved from Denver to New Orleans they would instantly improve their standard of living by 50%. Of the 178 school districts in the state, all but four reported a minimum teacher salary of less than $40,000. As a result teachers here frequently work multiple jobs to make ends meet. And it is not just teachers that struggle. Our school need paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers, and office workers to function. But these folks are also underpaid, with some making the equivalent of $4 to $5 an hour on the low end. This bill creates a salary floor for all districts to aim for and recognizes that this is a long-term goal we will not be able to fix all at once. So we must support districts, starting with the ones in the most difficulty, as they work toward being able to support a minimum salary on their own. But we have to do it with the resources we have. TABOR constrains our ability to bring in more revenue (in fact we have to return hundreds of millions of dollars this year). We have dire needs in mental health care and transportation. This bill is a realistic plan to address the problem.

Arguments Against:

Different places in the state have different standards of living and we should not force a one-size fits all requirement from the capital. We also shouldn’t confuse the issue here: the most acute problem is paying teachers and paying teachers is what the focus needs to be, not various support staff. If we had all the funds in the world of course we would want to pay everyone more. But we don’t, so better focus is needed. And since we need to focus, we should narrow the scope to highly effective teachers, as rated by our state, to ensure we keep the best teachers here in Colorado.


$40,000 is still too low. Teachers frequently have student debt. Many teachers who already make far above $40,000 a year, into the $50,000 range still struggle. And $15 million is drop in the ocean of what is required to truly pull those who work in our schools up to a living wage, because if local districts haven’t figured out a magic formula by now, they are unlikely to do so in the near future which means the state may have to support nearly the full amount required for the increase for quite some time. We need a much larger commitment, finding other sources of funds (perhaps taking more from public school lands income) to get our teachers the money they need and deserve.


We should not take money from the public school permanent fund, which is a long-term investment in our children’s future. The earnings from this help fund our schools every year and the less principal there is in the account the less it can earn.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-089

SB20-095 Middle School Students Concurrent Enrollment Information (Holbert (R), Garcia (D)) [Bockenfeld (R), Coleman (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $285,000

Description:

Requires community colleges to collaborate with school districts and charter schools to develop and disseminate information to middle school parents to explain benefits and opportunities available in concurrent enrollment (classes that give both high school and post-secondary credit for no tuition cost) during high school, the types of courses available, as well as requirements and process for enrolling. Materials must refer to the state’s website on concurrent enrollment and the name and contact information for the contact person for concurrent enrollment at the school. Must begin sending out materials in fall 2020 and then send out via electronic and physical mail once during the school year and once during the summer.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Concurrent enrollment is a great opportunity for high achieving students. Earning a few credits before high school graduation makes the student more attractive to post-secondary schools and makes it more likely the student will follow through. But we have to make sure parents are aware of these opportunities and what specific programs are available. Springing this on parents just before the start of high school is too late, we need to make sure this is on parent’s radar earlier.

Arguments Against:

We already require schools to provide notice to their high school students at least six weeks prior to enrollment, with pretty specific information, thanks to a bill from last year’s session. We don’t need to add yet another notice, given six times during middle school years, to parents. Concurrent enrollment is a great thing, but you can’t force it on people.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-095

SB20-103 Common Guidelines School District Open Enrollment (Tate (R))

AMENDED: Very Significant

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal: Require Create some uniform standards for school districts to school districts may follow for school choice procedures.

Description:

Requires the state to adopt uniform standards for school districts to that school districts may follow for open-enrollment procedures. This includes a minimum length for application periods with required latest allowed start date and earliest allowed end date, earliest allowed date by which a student is required to accept, latest allowed date for school to notify student of acceptance or denial, minimum level of uniformity in application formats, requiring ability to submit online, and minimum requirement of basic information about choice disseminated to parents. Rules must be in place for 2021-2022 school year unless state deems it impractical in which case 2022-2023.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Over 100,000 Colorado students use school choice each year, it is a very popular way for parents to pick a public school that best suits the needs of their children. But the existing process is a mess of differing standards, conflicting deadlines, and limited information. This immediately puts a barrier to parents with fewer resources, who cannot take the time and effort to navigate all of their options. All this bill does is ensure we have some baselines in place. The application form can allow for reasonable variability for different programs and schools. Schools can still pick dates that work best for them. But parents are able to know the basic guideposts, schools cannot hide information or set difficult deadlines, and, critically, everyone is able to apply online to any school (including potentially just through e-mail for schools that cannot or do not want to set up online portals). It is 2020 after all. Schools are free not to adopt the guidelines, so no one is going to be forced.

Arguments Against:

All of the school districts in the state are run somewhat differently, it is the cornerstone of our local control system when it comes to education. So mandating a one-size fits all structure onto school choice may cause difficulties for some districts, especially those with fewer resources. Parents who use choice aren’t out there school shopping, for the most part. They have a particular school in mind and just work within the parameters of that one school. And we really don’t want to have parents flooding the zone with applications anyway, the system isn’t designed to be like applying to college where you try to get in at a bunch of places then mull your options. Obviously the current system is serving the state well, as over 100,000 kids seem to navigate it just fine each year. No need to rock the boat.


School choice in and of itself is a flawed idea that causes downward spirals in some schools that lose resources when they lose pupils (since funding is based on pupil count). We cannot have a public school system of the “good” schools everyone want to use and the “bad” schools some people just get stuck in (because we cannot just choice everyone into the “good” schools). Instead of making things easier for parents to cherry pick schools we need to focus on making every school a place for a child to have a good education.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-103

SB20-111 School Transportation Grant Program (Hisey (R)) [Soper (R), D. Valdez (D)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: $5 million a year, unless there is budget shortfall or smaller surplus
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal: Create and continuously fund a school transportation grant program to help schools increase transportation services to students.

Description:

Creates the School Transportation Grant Program, which provides grants to public schools and districts to increase available transportation services to and from schools, school-sponsored activities, or in an emergency. State must prioritize schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and follow this prioritization order: 1. Schools that do not provide transportation; 2. Schools that want to increase transportation to more students; 3. Schools want to eliminate a transportation fee. Each school that receives a grant must report annually to the state and state must report annually to the legislature. Bill appropriates the lesser of $5 million or the general fund surplus each year (funds the legislature is free to spend each year after required spending is accounted for).

Additional Information:

Applicants must provide the following information:

  • Total number of students in the school or district and the number that are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
  • Whether the school currently provides transportation, and if so, what percentage of enrolled students are served by them
  • If the school charges a transportation fee, and if so, what percentage of enrolled students are paying it

Schools must report:

  • Specific uses the grant money was put toward and number of students who directly benefited
  • If applicable, number of students who received a public transportation pass from grant money


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

One of the core implied promises of our free public education system is that if a school is too far away for a child to walk to it, the school will get them there on a bus. But that promise is being steadily eroded. Multiple districts in the state, including some of the largest ones, now charge annual fees for students to ride the bus. This of course disadvantages lower income Coloradans who must make a difficult choice between paying the fee and being responsible for getting their child to and from school themselves. It is difficult for some students to do after-school programs, because of course the regular bus leaves right after school. And it is more difficult for parents who want to send their child to a different school through the state’s school choice program because they are frequently on their own to get the child either to a bus stop inside the district or to the school itself. This bill gives some funding to schools to attempt to fix as much of the problem as we can with our limited resources. Of course the first priority is having busing at all, and then having access to it for as many students as possible.

Arguments Against:

The bill’s prioritization list does not take into account the difference between students who live in a school district and those who are choicing into one. It therefore will give first priority to schools that do not offer transportation services to students, which will include those who choice in, with second priority given to schools that want to increase transportation to more students, which will mean students choicing into the district in addition to more after-hours options for existing students. Given that the larger school districts receive millions of dollars per year from their bus fees, third priority at $5 million a year where the district must eliminate the fee entirely (cannot just reduce it) is not going to go far at all in terms of reducing these fees. We should by all means look into helping districts who are not providing students in the district with bussing or are charging for it. But we should not as a state pay to subsidize someone’s choice to go to a different school district.


No one grant program should jump into first position for any general fund surpluses, and if we had to pick one to do it, it shouldn’t be one that helps with school busing.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-111

SB20-124 School Construction Guideline Utility Consultation (Priola (R), Hansen (D)) [Will (R), Buentello (D)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Consult with electric utilities for school capital construction projects regarding beneficial electrification and distributed generation opportunities.

Description:

Requires the public school capital construction assistance board, as part of deciding which applications for money for construction to accept, consult with the electric utility serving the applicant school regarding beneficial electrification and distributed generation opportunities.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

We need to pull every ounce of electricity we can out of renewable energy sources and new school construction offers the opportunity in particular for solar panels. You must of course also consider energy storage when thinking about renewables. We also need to build as energy efficiently as possible, as using less energy not only means we have to generate less electricity, but it also lowers the possibility of energy disruptions, particularly in the summer when there is higher demand. The bottom line is if we are going to be doing capital construction on a school, we should be considering how to minimize its carbon footprint and electrical use and you cannot have the complete picture on how to do that without consulting with the local utility. The power grid is a complicated thing.

Arguments Against:

We already require this board to consider building performance standards and guidelines and explicitly as part of that they must consider green building and energy efficiency. This extra step is unnecessary.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-124

SB20-131 Reimbursement To P-tech Schools For College Costs (Foote (D), Holbert (R)) [Mullica (D), Soper (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: $2 million
Fiscal Impact: Negligible beyond appropriation

Goal: Reimburse schools that participate in p-tech programs for college course expenses.

Description:

Allows schools that are part of a p-tech school to get reimbursed from the state for the school’s share of tuition, fees, books, and other materials for college courses successfully passed by the student. Appropriates $2 million to fund these reimbursements. P-techs are collaboration between school, community college or local district college, and industry employers where a student starts in 9th grade and goes through 14th (two years post high school like a community college) and earns an associate degree in a STEM focused industry.

Additional Information:

If the funding is insufficient, the state can ask for enough to make up the difference for their supplemental budget. Reimbursement for each credit hour is the average in-state tuition cost per credit hour for all colleges of the same type (local district or community, whichever applies).


Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

P-tech programs are great ways for kids who are not sure that the four-year college program is what they want or need to get a leg-up. It provides them a focused goal, intensive support services, mentoring, job shadowing, internships, pre-apprentices, and the program focuses especially on kids who need this help the most: first in their family to attend college. Most jobs in Colorado and the country now require some sort of post-secondary education and we face a large racial disparity in kids who are reaching that level. But this program does put some cost strain on our K-12 school system and we need to encourage more p-techs around the state. This bill will help relieve some of those costs and should help us achieve that goal, at a small cost to the state budget. Going credit by credit makes more sense than waiting six years for the end of the program, because schools just can’t bank on money that far out and because it might create perverse incentives for a school to do what is best for it to get its money back, rather than what is best for the student.

Arguments Against:

The goal of p-tech schools is laudable and taking on slightly more burden at the state level could make sense, but we should be paying for full completion, not credit by credit. This would incentivize the school to do all they can to keep the kid in the program. We’ll repay any school that gets someone through the program successfully.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-131

SB20-137 FERPA Waiver For Behavioral Health Services (Gardner (R)) [Buentello (D)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Create a one-year waiver to allow school personnel to communicate with behavioral health care providers about a student’s health records.

Description:

Requires the state to make a one-year waiver for provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to allow school personnel to communicate with behavioral health care providers as necessary about a student’s health records. Waiver must be available on its website, along with an explanation that is optional. Schools must also include the waiver in their registration materials and collect signed waivers.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Right now schools are too often having to go on a moment-by-moment basis to get parental consent. And we can all agree that for a student with behavioral health problems, it is important to facilitate communication between the student’s behavioral health provider and school personnel. So if we can instead just get a blanket waiver, it can save time and constant back-and-forth. It is entirely optional, so any parent that isn’t comfortable with it can just not sign it.

Arguments Against:

It may be optional but we still shouldn’t be doing it. Personal health records are an extremely private matter and it is worth a little inefficiency for parents to decide on a case-by-case basis what they do and do not want to release.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-137

SB20-149 Automatic Law Waivers For Rural School Districts (Crowder (R)) [Pelton (R)]

KILLED IN SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Create a list of statutes and rules for which a rural school district can invoke an automatic waiver.

Description:

Directs the state board of education to identify a list of statutes and rules for which a rural school district can invoke an automatic waiver. Waivers must be posted on the district’s website with a standardized explanation created by the state board. Waivers can only be revoked by the local board and can be claimed for individual schools or entire districts, but the board can review and revise the list. The list of statutes and rules that can be automatically waived is supposed to be created with the most requested current waivers from rural districts but cannot include waivers for the performance evaluation system for licensed personnel, procedures for competitive bidding, the annual school calendar and teacher-pupil contact hours, power to accept and expend gifts, donations or grants, and the employment of licensed personnel.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

There are multiple statutes and rules that just don’t work for rural districts, which is why we have a waiver process. For areas where waivers are usually requested and granted, it will be easier on all involved to have them be automatic. Since ultimate control over what is automatic is still vested in the state board of education, there is no worry about things being automatic that shouldn’t.

Arguments Against:

We already have a waiver process and it isn’t automatic for good reason. Every situation is different and there should be no blanket ability to get rid of a statute or rule that we as a state have decided is important for schools. The current situation is fine.


We shouldn't have these waivers at all, much less make them automatic. School statutes and rules are put in place for a good reason, because we want our children to learn in the best environment possible.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-149

SB20-175 Assessment Score On A Student's Transcript (Zenzinger (D), Rankin (R)) [Titone (D), McLachlan (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None at state level, negligible for schools

Goal: Prohibit assessment scores, including SAT or ACT results, from being indicated on a high school student’s transcript unless the student wishes it.

Description:

Prohibits assessment scores, including SAT or ACT results, from being indicated on a high school student’s transcript unless the student wishes it.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Our state assessment tests are more to measure how we are doing than to mark students with specific grades. Students should not be required to put these on their transcripts unless they want to. The same goes for SAT or ACT scores, this is of course something the student will have to submit to a college if they want to attend, but transcripts are used for more than just attending post-secondary schools and a SAT or ACT score is not really part of what the student achieved in school. Again, if the student wants it on the transcript that we will do it.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-175

SB20-184 Add To Public School Financial Literacy Standards (Bridges (D), Lundeen (R)) [Kipp (D), Buck (R)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal: Require state to review its financial literacy standards as part of its full educational K-12 review as well as add full understanding of post-secondary education finances, retirement savings, and credit card debt to both the state’s educational resource library for schools and to the expectations for any school teaching financial literacy in high school.

Description:

Adds financial literacy standards to the state’s educational K-12 review, which occurs every six years. These must include understanding of: costs associated with obtaining a post-secondary degree, how to assess different post-secondary options from a financial perspective, different ways to pay, types of student loans including how to get them, manage their payment structures and debt, potential career earnings from post-secondary education, common methods for saving for retirement, and credit and managing credit card debt. The bill adds these items (minus credit which was already there) to the expectation the state has for the curriculum for school districts that teach financial literacy (it is already strongly encouraged) as well as the definition of financial literacy. The bill also requires adding information about these items (again minus credit which was already there) to the state’s existing financial literacy resource bank, which all schools can access.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

If there is one thing that we can just about guarantee any student will need to learn in high school that will be used after graduation, it is financial literacy. We expect students to be able to read, write, and do fundamental math before they even get to high school. From that point we are honing these skills. But we are not necessarily teaching kids critical skills and information about post-secondary degrees, credit card debt, and saving for retirement. In households where there is not strong parental influence over these matters, that can quickly turn into crippling problems for those fresh out of high school. This bill ensures that the state has the resources on these subjects for schools to use and strongly encourages schools to take advantage of them and teach these along with other parts of financial literacy. No one is forced to, just strongly encouraged.

Arguments Against:

Maybe we should force the schools to teach this. If it is one of the few things we can almost guarantee a student will need to know, then why are we making this optional for schools? It should be a mandated part of the high school curriculum instead of strongly encouraged.


Schools are not here to teach students how to navigate their finances. We need to stick to the basics of reading, writing, math, and social studies and not divert into areas that are best handled by parents.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-184

SB20-185 The Colorado Imagination Library Program (Bridges (D), Tate (R)) [Tipper (D), Wilson (R)]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: About $4.2 million a year if all kids signed up, likely less than that

Goal: Create a program that can enroll every child ages 0-5 in the national Imagination Library program, which sends a book every month to each child, where the state pays half of the cost and the other half is borne by organizations in each county created for this purpose (private donations pay for this half, not counties).

Description:

Creates a program for the state to enroll children ages 0-5 in the national Imagination Library program. This program sends a book every month to each child. Organizations must form in a county in order for children in the county to sign-up and the organization and the state will split the costs 50/50. State is to contract with a local non-profit to run the program and do nothing else, including helping these county organizations get established, develop, promote, and coordinate a public awareness campaign for both donors to donate to the county organizations and the public aware of the opportunity to receive books through the program. Non-profit must submit a report each July to the legislature on the total number of children in each county and how many are enrolled in the program. Program begins subject to appropriations (receives none this year) and can accept gifts, grants, and donations to fulfill state half of funding.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: None

Arguments For:

Literacy skills learned between birth and age 5 often predict literacy in later years, with children who are behind when they enter kindergarten unlikely to catch up to their peers. And we are not doing well enough right now with our students. Only 40% of the key age group of 4th grade (by which point many of the building blocks of literacy should be complete) is reading proficiently and we have not closed gaps between African-American and Latino 4th graders with their white peers. Gaps that were identified 20 years ago. Part of this problem is simply one of access. We know that simple access to reading materials is a key component of achieving literacy. But children who live in rural areas frequently do not have access to any library at all and many in high poverty areas, including children of color, have only one public library. Sending a free book each month to these families could make an enormous difference in the lives of these children. Denver has a program like this running, but it is capped at 11,000 kids and they have just as many on a waiting list. Even if every kid in the state signed up this would only cost $4 million a year to the state, quite an investment in early childhood literacy. The program is not means tested because once we say this is something for people with less money two things happen. First, the program gets labeled as being for “poor people” and thus struggles to maintain its funding (there is a long history of means-tested programs getting short shrift) and second the kids who are in the program feel that same stigma. Public services (like free K-12 education for instance) work best when they are for the entire public. Not to mention that means-testing brings in additional layers of complication for figuring out who qualifies and who does not.

Arguments Against:

There may be some correlation not equally causation going on here. Kids 0-5 who are given books and encouraged to read them (or more accurately for most of that time, have the books read to them) have parents or other people in their lives who are investing time and effort into their literacy. If you have a child without someone doing that, then all the books in the world might not make a difference in their literacy level. Learning to read is almost never a self-taught endeavor at this age. You need an adult there willing and ready to help. So while it may be only $4 million if every kid was in this program, we might be wasting that money when we could spend it on early childhood education opportunities instead—make sure kids have a place they can go where an adult will put effort into helping them read (and other things too).


If it would only cost $4 million to pay half the costs for every child in the state, and this is such a worthwhile program, let’s pay the full $8.5 million and cut-out the whole rigmarole of county organizations needing to fundraise every year to ensure they can meet their end of the bargain. That also would mean we do not have to worry about any counties that fail to create their own organization—we’d be able to push this out to the entire state regardless. Otherwise you might have kids and families in one county that would love to be in the program but cannot, because their county doesn’t have an organization set-up.


We should not be paying for millionaires to get a free book a month for their kids. Maybe the threshold should be high, but there should be some sort of means-test to be in this program.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-185

SB20-219 Lease-purchase Issuance For Capital Construction (Fields (D), Sonnenberg (R)) [A. Valdez (D), Rich (R)]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Net negative over the long-term

Goal: Use lease-purchase agreements to fund $65.5 million worth of higher education capital construction projects.

Description:

Directs the state treasurer to execute lease-purchase agreements for up to $65.5 million. Lease-purchase agreements are where the state transfers its interest in a property it owns to a private company in exchange for cash and then leases the property back through annual lease payments, somewhat like a mortgage, where at the end the state owns the property again. This revenue is to be used for higher education capital construction projects. The legislature has until August 15 to publish the list of projects that will get the funding. Any leftover revenue is to be put into the emergency controlled maintenance account.

Additional Information:

All lease-purchase agreements must provide that this is not creating debt for the state and that there is no legal obligation for the state to pay each year. If the state defaults, the sole security to the lessor is the property. Interest income on these leases is exempt from state income taxes.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

We have a lot of in progress capital maintenance projects at institutions of higher education that need to be done. There are cost escalations when a project is postponed, including repair and maintenance required just to keep what has already been done from falling apart. Another benefit is sending money out into the economy through the construction companies. Because of our budget crisis, we could not fund these projects through traditional means, so these lease-purchase agreements are the only way. It is true that we will have to come up with the $65.5 million, plus interest, in the years to come from other sources, but we will have saved some money on these ongoing projects, pumped more money into the economy, and of course we will have the completed projects at these schools that need them.

Arguments Against:

This is substituting a short-term problem for a long-term problem. Yes we will be able to keep working on these projects, but this is a net negative to our long-term budget and that money will have to come from somewhere. There is no guarantee it will come from doing fewer capital construction projects, since many of the same arguments will apply: delay costs more money. We are increasing our reliance on these lease-purchase instruments (they are currently a key part of our transportation funding), which is a dangerous slope to go down. You keep slapping everything on a credit card bill, eventually you are going to run into trouble.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB20-219