These are all of the Education bills proposed in the 2021 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.

HB21-1006 Fifth-day School Enrichment Programs Funding (Garcia (D), Hisey (R)) [Esgar (D), Will (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a grant program to fund non-profits who support fifth day academic enrichment and food for kids in four-day school week districts. Grants are awarded on three-year cycles and paid out of a fund the bill creates (but does not put any money into)

Description:

Grantees are to support kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. Money must be used for: supplemental educational programming for academic development on the 5th day when kids aren’t in school or in after-school programs so long as the grantee also provides 5th day support, meals for the kids, acquiring education materials and technology, build relationships with schools to conduct outreach, staff and administrative support, or other appropriate uses as determined by the state school board.

Grants to start in 2021-2022 fiscal year. While they are for three years, the structure is to be one-year with an automatic renewal contingent on the grantee continuing to meet criteria for the program. State is to determine rules for running the program, including how to apply, amount of grants based on number of children served by the grantee, and how automatic renewal will work. Grants are to be awarded in the order they are received.

To be eligible, non-profits must have experience in providing before- and after-school programs with supplemental educational programming, have a relationship with a local school that is on a 4-day week, serve children from K-12, and serve a majority of kids who qualify for free or reduced school lunch.

Grantees must report to the state before February 15th each year. State must report to legislature by April 1.

Additional Information:

Grantee application must include proof they meet eligibility requirements and a description of what they are going to do with the money. Grantee annual reports must include: number of children served and nonidentifying information about their age and economic status of their family, description of the grantee’s relationship with its school, description of the academic programming, and uses of the grant money.

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have the most four-day school week districts in the country, with more than 80,000 children having a “free” fifth day that may not seem so free to parents, particularly working parents
  • We don’t really know yet the long-term impacts of losing a day of school, but we do know that districts must stretch their four days by 1.5 hours each day to make up for the lost fifth day and we know that some parents struggle to find supervision for their children on that fifth day and some kids rely on school for meals
  • The state cannot force schools into five day weeks, so finding alternative safe and educational environments for the fifth day is the best we can do to support families that want or need it

In Further Detail: Colorado has the highest percentage of four-day school week districts in the country. 111 of out the state’s 178 districts operate on this schedule. That is more than 80,000 children. The problems with no fifth day are obvious. Districts must stretch the other four days of the week to get to the same overall hours, by an extra one and half hours of school each day. That cuts into after-school activities and may simply be too much school in one day, particularly for younger kids. Working parents have to figure out what to do with their kids on the fifth day, especially with kids who are too young to be left home alone. Many kids rely on school for a meal and others for the structure it provides. One study found evidence of increased youth crime rates in four-day districts versus five-day districts. All of that said, there are limits to what the state legislature can do. It cannot force any district to back to five-day weeks. It could dabble in other approaches, like incentives for doing so since most districts make this decision for financial reasons, but what does that tell all of the districts that fight to make five day weeks work right now? This is the best way, funding safe and enriching programs on that fifth day for people who need them, while letting those that like the extra “off” day, and can afford to have a kid out of organized activities during a workday, stick to the four-day schedule. Some parents genuinely like it, so this allows them to stick with it. This also does not reward districts for dropping down to four-day weeks with extra money to go back to five, which might cause some to drop down just so they can get more money to climb back up. As for the idea that K-12 education has nothing to do with providing working families somewhere for their children to go during work hours, that has nothing to do with reality in Colorado in 2021.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The point of school is to educate our children, not to provide day care or free food. If we can do that in four-day weeks, then we don’t need to pay more state money to have a place for kids to go on the fifth day

In Further Detail: We provide free K-12 education because it is essential for future life, not as day care centers. We already provide some state funds to go along with local money to educate our kids. If that can be done in four days, fine. There is some evidence that increased school hours actually helps kids learn better, it is generally one of the cornerstones of successful charter schools.


Bottom Line:

  • This is a problem for sure but the solution is not scrambling to find non-profits to run 5th day programs, it is to use that some money as an incentive for schools to go back to 5 day programs so can attack all of the issues with a four-day week for all students

In Further Detail: If we believe it is bad to have a four-day week because of crammed hours, reduced school extracurricular time, strains on working parents, and potential for juvenile crime, then we need to try to get schools back on five-day weeks by using the money we would have spent on this program as incentives instead. This addresses the issue head-on: most districts say they only go to four-day weeks for monetary reasons (although some cite recruiting teachers too). This lets us fix the actual problem by providing the district more money, but only if it stays on a five-day plan.


Bottom Line:

  • In either structure, this bill’s grants or incentives to districts, we are bailing out communities that don’t want to invest in education to the same degree as others in this state. This is unfair to the communities willing to pay the extra property taxes that are the backbone of district funding

In Further Detail: There is no great mystery here. The state provides all districts per-pupil funding and of course there’s a lot that goes into the formula, but the backbone of school district funding comes from property taxes. There are communities in the state that don’t want to pay higher property taxes and reject property tax initiatives for school funding. If we turn around and give those communities more state money in any form, we are letting them have their cake and eat it too, at the expense of all of the communities that are willing to fully fund their schools.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1006

HB21-1010 Diverse K-12 Educator Workforce Report (Fields (D)) [Ricks (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible this year

Goal:

  • Create 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.

Description:

Departments of higher education and education are to convene group. Report due to the legislature by October 2022. 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
  • 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 2024

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Numerous research has shown that minority students in particular benefit from having an educator with a similar background and all students benefit from being exposed to a diverse group of educators
  • Male teachers can be enormous role models to younger boys who lack positive male role models
  • We know some the reasons why our educators don’t resemble our actual demographics (with far more white women and far fewer minority men) but not all of them, so a taskforce can take a deep dive and come up with recommendations

In Further Detail: 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:

Bottom Line:

  • We are teaching our kids the wrong lessons if we teach them that their gender or race is one of the most important factors for earning a job in a profession: we should find the best teachers, regardless of gender or race

In Further Detail: 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?


Bottom Line:

  • 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 HB21-1010

HB21-1029 Use Of READ Act Per-pupil Intervention Money [Geitner (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Allow school districts, charter boards, and boards of cooperative services to use state READ act money on non-approved education materials for two years. The materials must meet state criteria for materials in the program. After the two years is up, the state board must review to see if the materials achieved the desired result, and if they did, include them in the approved list. If not, the local educator is not allowed to use state money to purchase them

Description:

The READ act is a program designed to improve reading levels of K-3 students and specifically identify and help those students who need help reaching grade level. The funding is complicated, but its core is per-pupil funds that the schools can then use to purchase materials approved by the state board of education.

Schools must notify the state board if they are using unapproved materials and describe them prior to purchasing them.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The READ act is not working well and hasn’t since the beginning. Student’s reading levels have not improved and in fact have gotten slightly worse
  • We should not expect the state board to have all of the answers when it comes to educational materials that may help
  • The bill ensures that any unapproved materials are used on a trial basis and the ultimate decision rests with the state board

In Further Detail: The READ act has been in place since 2012 and it quite frankly is not working. 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 59%. The preliminary 2020 show even more drastic decline and all of the numbers consistently show gender and race disparities. 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. So let’s not expect the state board to have all of the answers here. Local educators may have good ideas, we should see if they work. If they don’t, it’s not like this program is working great anyway, so there probably isn’t much lost here. The bill ensures the materials are used only on a trial basis and the ultimate end decision on them still rests with the state board.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We just made enormous changes to the READ act and it is too early to judge their effectiveness
  • There are other ways to encourage local educators to find helpful materials without letting them just try it out and see what happens: things could get even worse
  • The board cannot stop the local educators from using materials that don’t work, it just can’t let that particular district use READ act money on them. And they might not really need to at that point, plus other districts aren’t barred from using them

In Further Detail: We just made massive changes to the READ act in 2019 (you can see them here on Engage). It is way to early to know if they are having the affect we want, in particular since the pandemic hit last year (which also means the 2020 data is really not that useful). It is certainly true that local educators may have good ideas for materials not approved by the state board. But there are different ways to get those ideas into the system than just trying them to see if they work, especially since the only person vouching that the materials meet program criteria is the local educators themselves. There could be an application process where the board approves such a trial before it happens. Because even if the READ act doesn’t work great right now, it definitely could be worse and there is no guarantee the trial won’t make it worse in that school. Plus, while the state board can bar the district from using READ act money to purchase those supplies in the future, it can’t stop them from using the supplies they already purchased, which would surely last for more than just two years. The board also cannot stop other districts from using READ act money on the exact same supplies it knows does not work until two years after the damage is done. This could be repeated in district after district across the state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1029

HB21-1055 Compensation For School District Board Members [Woodrow (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow all members of public school boards to receive compensation and reimbursement for expenses (right now it is just officers) and allow the president and vice-president to receive additional compensation for their roles.

Description:

No board members may increase their compensation during their current term of office. All compensation matters must be determined by a vote of the majority of the board.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • You get what you pay for in many circumstances and if we want people to be truly dedicated to serving on school boards, to really put in the time and effort, we should allow them to be compensated. And that goes for the additional burden of the president and vice-president roles
  • Current system doesn’t force a majority vote based on a written resolution and allows board officers to increase their own compensation during their current term
  • This is voluntary

In Further Detail: What we want from our school board members, not just the officers, is dedication to the task at hand. The simple truth is that paying money for services incentivizes most people to work harder. It also can make it easier to draw in a wider pool of people from various socio-economic backgrounds. On the other hand the current system makes it easy for a board to raise its own salaries (at least for the officers) and is silent about how this must occur, just “in an amount determined by the board”. That should not be, the bill would ensure that any pay raises occur at the earliest in the next term of office. If a board attempted to drastically increase compensation at odds with community wishes, they could be voted out. Finally, this is voluntary. No school board has to do any of this.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We want people involved in the school board and running for president or vice president for the right reasons and those do not include money
  • Board members can be reasonably assured of re-election so the limit on how early raises can take effect may not do much in practice

In Further Detail: What we don’t want is people on the school board for the money, or trying to be president or vice president for the pay raise. It is also true that elections at this level generally default to incumbents unless there are large controversies or malfeasance, so putting the time limit on pay raises may not do much in practice. Board members may be able to vote for increases fairly certain they will be around to enjoy them.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1055

HB21-1080 Nonpublic Education And COVID-19 Relief Act [Baisley (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Accelerating loses in net funds, $25 million next year, then $47 the year after, and in ten years $152 million

Goal:

  • Create a statewide school tax credit program where the parents of any K-12 age child in the state can get 50% of the average per-pupil money in the state as a tax credit for a child in private school attendance or a $1,000 income tax credit for home schooling the child. Both of those are for full-time enrollment, half-time enrollment cuts the numbers in half, so 25% and $500 respectively. Starting next year, only children who either are too young for school or were enrolled in public school would be eligible

Description:

For private school credits, the precise amount is the lesser of 50% of per-pupil revenue or the actual amount of tuition at the school. Tax credits can be rolled over for three years but are not refundable (in other words you can’t go past $0 owed in taxes and have the state pay you money to make up the difference). Taxpayers can transfer unused credit to other taxpayers, including businesses. Pass-through businesses (where taxes are passed through to the actual owners individual taxes) can allocate the credit among its owners.

Additional Information:

Private schools are responsible for issuing the tax credit certificate to families. They must provide the state with a report each year of all credits issued, which includes the name of the taxpayer and state tax id or social security number. If the credit is associated with a pass-through business, all of the associated names and identifying numbers are required.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This provides parents with more choices for educating their children if they feel their assigned public school is inadequate
  • This benefits low-income families who cannot afford private education and opens the same opportunities to them as to wealthier families
  • Estimates of future behavior are tough, but it is important to point out that the state does not have to pay to school any child who is either home-schooled or in private school and neither does the local district so the total money saved is going to be higher than the flat impact on state finances. The net overall picture in the entire state will be money saved
  • The constitutional question around religious schools getting this funding is basically settled

In Further Detail: When we allow families to make the decisions that are best for them, we maximize the ability for all students to receive the educational experience that works best for that student. Sometimes what is best for a child is not to attend their local public school. The point of free K-12 education is to provide every child with K-12 education, not to dictate where they receive it. We all know that public schools can vary wildly in quality and also in terms of specific programs. This bill also levels the playing field for low-income families who unless they can obtain a scholarship have no ability to access private education the way wealthy families do. That also increases the diversity in those private institutions, which benefits all that attend. On the finances, this is not a voucher program—we are not taking state education money and giving it to families to attend private school. The tax credits are not the entire cost of educating the child in a public school setting, so by definition the state as a whole will gain money from this bill. Now because public school financing is split between state and local governments and because the state government bears the brunt of all of the lost revenue, this is not captured by the fiscal note. But local governments will come out ahead under this plan. For constitutionality, the state supreme court had to backtrack a bit from their ruling a decade ago on school vouchers after the US supreme court ruled in favor of a religious pre-school in Missouri that raised similar issues of church/state separation (the thing became moot because Douglas County dropped the idea entirely so the state court never issued a definitive ruling). And then the US Supreme Court essentially destroyed the entire premise of this church/state separation argument in 2020 in Espinoza v. Montana. So long as the state is not favoring any specific religion and the choice was made freely by families, programs like this bill are allowed.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We should not be using state money to send kids to private school or to homeschool them: we give every child in the state a free K-12 education paid for by our tax dollars in public systems where we can hold everyone involved accountable
  • Every kid in the state who is school-age will be eligible for this program next year: every single kid who is already homeschooled or in private school can simply grab this handout and the bill ensures that all tax credits will be used by allowing them to be given to anyone else if the parents cannot or don’t want to use them—and the credits can also be sold
  • Despite the concern about wealthy versus poor parents, there is no attempt to means-test this program
  • This will cost us state money, regardless of what happens at the local level. That will have to come from somewhere in the state budget

In Further Detail: We provide a free K-12 education for all children in the state and that is paid for with our taxpayer dollars, in exchange for which we have the ability to write the rules of the road for these schools and hold them accountable for breaking them. If people do not want to take advantage of this free system, the law allows them to do so. But we don’t have to pay them to do it. It is telling that the last major effort by a school district to provide a similar program (in that case vouchers) led to the electoral defeat of the school board and a new regime that reversed the attempted policy. There is no means-testing to ensure that we aren’t propping up wealthy families who don’t need this, and most dammingly, there is no attempt to require that home-schooling or private schooling was done due to COVID, as the bill title suggests is the point of allowing anyone currently enrolled in private school or homeschooled to use the program. It is instead a one-time free pass for any child in the state. The tax credit structure here is also problematic: why do businesses need to be able to buy up these credits? And the bottom line is that this will cost the state money. Not considering the whole, but the actual state government. We don’t do cross-government budgeting, so the lost revenue, over $100 million a year in ten years, will have to come out of some other program. It may end up being K-12 education, which will affect the state school districts uniformly, rather than just the ones who have extra funds due to fewer pupils.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1080

HB21-1087 Teaching And Learning Conditions Survey (Danielson (D)) [Daugherty (D), Bradfield (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Negligible

Goal:

  • Allow education support professionals who provide direct instruction, support licensed staff in an educational capacity, or support instruction and the learning environment take the state’s teaching and learning conditions survey.

Description:

This survey is administered every two years to assess teaching and learning conditions as predictors of student achievement, retention of teachers, and the relationship between teaching and learning conditions and school administration.

Educated support professionals is defined by the bill as: teaching assistants, teaching or classroom technicians, tutors, library or media assistants, bilingual assistants, educational interpreters, braillists, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants, health screeners, counselor assistants, health care technicians, student monitors, child find coordinators, child care providers or group leaders, and community liaisons.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We are leaving out just under 25,000 people right now in this survey, and you can see from the list in the description that they are critical to a full understanding of the environment at a school. The state is up to accurately reporting the results, including the results of just teachers, without handholding from the legislature

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The survey is designed for teachers and adding in these other perspectives without a requirement that the survey be redesigned to ensure full and accurate reporting of teachers themselves as well as questions designed to gather the experience of these other professionals may cause a problem

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1087

HB21-1103 Media Literacy Implementation (Pettersen (D), Coram (R)) [Cutter (D), McLachlan (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • 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.
  • 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).

Description:

Revisions must 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.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is the result of a bill that was passed two years ago 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.
  • We continue to receive nearly daily lessons in why this is so necessary: the amount of misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies seems to get continually worse

In Further Detail: In 2019 the legislature passed a bill setting up this media literacy standards program and directed the state to implement it after the committee made its recommendations. So this is merely fulfilling the conditions of a bill already passed by the legislature. And we keep getting reminded of why this is so badly needed. Misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies are everywhere in our modern media and culminated in an assault on our nation’s capitol building on January 6th. 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:

Bottom Line:

  • We don’t have to do anything here, it is not too late to simply move on from the 2019 bill and not implement this program
  • Our government should not be in the business of teaching our kids how to tell if a story is “true” or “false”, the potential for indoctrination into only liberal media sources is obvious

In Further Detail: 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.


Bottom Line:

  • This is a worthy concept but may be impossible to execute

In Further Detail: 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. The fact that something like “was the 2020 election stolen” is so controversial despite having an obvious and true answer (no), does not bode well.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1103

HB21-1059 Online Student Protections (Lundeen (R)) [Geitner (R), Bradfield (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Prohibit schools from suspending or expelling a student based on the presence of an item observed in an online student’s physical environment or based on the student’s behavior while the student participates in online instruction unless the student is repeatedly interfering with the ability of the teacher to teach. Any such suspensions or expulsions since March 23, 2020, are revoked and expunged from the student’s record
  • Prohibit schools from requiring use of a camera to provide live digital images during online instruction or attempting to impose requirements on the student’s physical environment (except for relating to student focus)
  • Prohibit schools from banning or attempting to ban parents from being in the same room or area as the student during online instruction and from recording the student without the parent’s prior written consent

Description:

Schools cannot suggest that parents should not be in the same room or area as the student. Items in the room relating to student focus that schools can prohibit involve audio or video distractions. For the crime of interfering with educational institutions, bill clarifies that a student’s private residence does not count during online instruction (or any other time).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Online schooling is difficult and we need to be more understanding of the extreme hardship on students, particularly younger students. That means not jumping to suspend or expel them unless they are interfering with the learning of other students, not making a bunch of demands about their physical space, and not trying to kick parents out of the room
  • Recording students in school generally requires a waiver from parents, so online learning should be no different

In Further Detail: Online learning is really hard, especially for younger kids. Having to sit in front of the screen, dealing with the technology and the isolation, and having drastically reduced mediums to work with make it much harder for kids to behave in the way we expect. So schools need to cut them some slack and only pull out suspensions and expulsions when it is interfering with the ability for the teacher to teach other kids. Schools also need to not worry about physical spaces, again unless there is interference with learning due to distraction, and especially not about parents being around. Not every child has a computer with a camera in it. They should still be able to participate. No child should be recorded without the permission of a parent. In all, if we are to have remote schooling in combination with remote work, we need to be more flexible and understanding.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This is overly broad in many ways—what about disruptive parents or inappropriate items visible in backgrounds?

In Further Detail: Online education is of course difficult and we need to cut some slack but we can do that without going overboard, and this bill goes too far. Background items can include a number of highly inappropriate items: nudity, profanity, gross violence, bullying materials, and offensive language to name a few. If a child, for instance, something in the background that said Jews are the source of all of our problems, the school should be able to do something about it. Under this bill, it would not as it is not an audio or visual distraction. Parents are a different bucket of potential problems, but in general we don’t let parent in classrooms because it can easily interfere with the teacher’s ability to teach. Parents who are jumping in, asking questions, distracting the student, or arguing with a teacher would be disruptive. But the school couldn’t do anything about it under this bill.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1059

SB21-013 Reversing COVID-related Learning Loss (Fields (D)) [Bacon (D), Froelich (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Make available a resource bank of products and strategies for schools to use to address learning loss due to COVID-19 related disruptions based on study the department of education does of best practices

Description:

This resource bank must be available by the start of the fall semester of the 2021-22 school year. To create it, the department is to identify educational products, strategies, and services that have demonstrated effectiveness identifying and reversing student learning loss, including those specifically designed to address students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities. The bank must include examples, explanations and instructions on implementation, and models of professional development related to use and implementation. It must also include public and private non-profits that may partner with schools to provide personnel or other resources to assist in implementation. The state is also to provide as much technical assistance as possible.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We all know that there has been varying degrees of learning loss due to COVID-19 classroom disruptions, although no one knows the complete toll yet it is estimated that some students may have even lost ground and fallen further behind
  • There is also ample evidence that these negative effects have hit students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities even harder
  • We have to do everything we can to make up these losses and the state is best positioned to do the research and provide centralized resources for all schools in the state to figure out how

In Further Detail: This could be a catastrophe if we do not act. Some students in the state will have lost over a year of classroom learning and will be well-behind grade level expectations. Some studies have estimated a cumulative loss on the order of five to nine months by the end of our current school year. That sort of deficit can easily snowball, in particular with students who were already potentially facing gaps with their peers. As in many things, disasters hit these groups harder, so students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities are more likely to be even further behind. Within that same estimate of learning loss, white kids are estimated at four to eight months while kids of color could be six to twelve months behind. Another study found that 9th graders living in the poorest 20% of US neighborhoods will about half a grade’s worth of performance (so if you used to get straight Bs you’d get a mix of Bs and Cs instead), with only 50% of those students recovering by the end of high school. The wealthiest 20%, on the other hand, will lose nothing at all. The first step here is admitting that we don’t know the answers without help and study—so we need to get busy studying and then get busy helping schools all over the state implement best practices. This is going to be a moving target that may require years of dedicated effort but getting our arms around the issue is always the best place to start.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The simple fact is that we don’t know yet how severe the learning loss will be, many studies are highly speculative at this point, and we need to find out what the loss is, and in what areas, before we start working on mitigation strategies

In Further Detail: A lot of these studies are very speculative. As they’d have to be, at this point we are still in the middle of this and with school not operating normally, we don’t have the ability to truly assess who has fallen behind and by how much and in what areas. We need to get that knowledge first, which should come from standardized testing later this Spring. Then we can work on more detailed strategy for addressing it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-013

SB21-037 Student Equity Education Funding Programs (Lundeen (R))

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Allow parents with children eligible to attend any public school that closes for more than 30 school days at any time to use the per-pupil the school would have received for their child on home-schooling or private school options instead of attending the public school
  • The governing board of any school that is eligible by dint of closure must set up a fund with which to disperse these payments, which are to be made in equal monthly increments. The board must audit a representative sample of parents on this program to ensure they are using the funds as allowed. If it finds they are not, it can commence legal action to recover the money

Description:

Students have to either have been in the school the year before the closure occurred or be in the school district. They can have attended private school or be homeschooled already.

Parents must apply to this program through their schools by June 15th prior to the new school year. Application must include an affirmation under penalty of perjury that they are eligible, a description of the educational services the parent purchased or provided for the student in the past year (if any), and a description of the educational services the parent will purchase or provide with the money.

Schools must approve applications if they determine the child is eligible. Parents can use the money for educational materials, homeschooling, or enrollment in private school. The parent must submit electronic receipts quarterly.

Additional Information:

Schools must notify parents by June 1 of any eligible year (so since this year is eligible it will apply) of this program, including posting information on their website on how to apply. This must include the name and contact number for the contact person at the school for questions, eligibility requirements set forth by this bill, how parents can apply, the amount of money they are eligible for, and how they can spend it (including reporting requirements).

A student using this program must still take annual standardized tests as required by state law, their performance will not count toward their designated school’s statistics, but they are still considered a pupil for the purposes of school funding.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Some parents chose to spend money to try to prevent learning loss when our schools closed, we owe it those that want to continue to do this in fear that it may happen again
  • If a child does not attend a school, that school does not get any money, so the school isn’t losing anything by losing per-pupil revenue for a child that isn’t there
  • The system is designed to promote accountability for spending and has a process to detect and punish cheaters

In Further Detail: When our schools close for long periods of time, the burden falls on parents to try to fill in the gaps, and many try to do so with educational services and products the parents themselves have to pay for. This naturally sets up a have and have-not situation where wealthy parents can more easily keep their children on track. Remote learning produces many of the same problems, although not obviously to the same scale. Some parents may have taken their children out of school entirely so as to keep them learning. All of these parents may want to continue this process to ensure that their kids aren’t hit by these enormous disruptions in the future. It therefore makes sense to ensure these kids can continue to get the education their parents want by using the money the state would have spent on them in public school, and giving it to them instead. The school wouldn’t get the money if the child was not enrolled anyway, so we aren’t necessarily depriving the schools. There is an accountability system to ensure no one is cheating and a mechanism to deal with those that do.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This identifies a real problem and then veers off into a totally different solution: instead of helping parents recoup costs or bridge closure gaps it sends them away from public schools entirely
  • Despite the concern about wealthy versus poor parents, there is no attempt to means-test this program and no requirement that the child ever actually attended public school in the first place: the bill is simply a vehicle to shift money from public schools to homeschooling and private schools
  • Every kid in the state who is school-age will be eligible for this program next year: every single kid who is already homeschooled or in private school can simply grab this handout

In Further Detail: There is a real problem here that the bill identifies. Closures affected families hard, with children losing learning, parents forced to fill-in the best they could, and in some cases, money spent to try to alleviate the harm. But the solution it proposes is simply to pay parents taxpayer dollars intended for public schools so they can homeschool their kids or even send them to private school instead. There is no means-testing to ensure that we aren’t propping up wealthy families who don’t need this, and most dammingly, there is no requirement that the child ever attended the school in the first place. They could have been homeschooled or in private school from the beginning, and still the state would have to subsidize their future schooling outside the public school system. Rather than an attempt to help public school students deal with the unfortunate learning loss and associated harms to the entire family, the bill is an attempt to siphon off kids out of public school altogether, at taxpayer expense. We provide a free K-12 education for all children in the state and that is paid for with our taxpayer dollars, in exchange for which we have the ability to write the rules of the road for these schools and hold them accountable for breaking them. If people do not want to take advantage of this free system, the law allows them to do so. But we don’t have to pay them to do it. And we don’t in any other circumstance: the state doesn’t pay per-pupil funding to parents who homeschool or send their kids to private school. This bill would give a one-time free pass for every parent of a school-age child to change that basic fact.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-037

SB21-058 Approval Of Alternative Principal Programs (Story (D)) [Woodrow (D), Larson (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Allow schools to create general alternative principal programs in addition to the already allowed personalized alternative principal programs. These are on-the-job training programs that allow people who do not have a principal license to obtain one, while under supervision, while performing the job.Description:

Current law allows for schools to create alternative principal programs, but these must be individualized. There is no ability for a school district or other similar educational bodies to create an alternative principal program. That is, a set program that anyone qualified may pursue and graduate from. This bill creates the ability for schools to create such a program, with the approval of the state board of education. See Additional Information for more detail on how alternative principal programs work in detail.

To be approved a program must at a minimum:

  • Provide information, experience, and training so that the person in the program gets the skills comparable to someone with an initial principal license
  • Provide information and training on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, individualized education plans, the Child Find program, and effective special education classroom practices
  • Prove professional competency in areas required by state board for principals
  • Include supervision by mentor principals, performance evaluations, and a planned program of instruction to achieve required goals

Additional Information:

State educational board must establish a schedule for those operating or looking to operate an alternative program to periodically seek reapproval.

Alternative principal programs, including those individualized programs already allowed by law, are three year programs that cannot be renewed, that is you have three years to make it through. Upon completion the state may issue a principal’s license but it is not required to do so. Someone in one of these programs must be under the supervision of someone with a professional principal license. To qualify for the program, individuals must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in higher education and the school must demonstrate a need for the principal or assistant principal position that is to be filled. Upon approval the candidate then fills that job for three years while completing the alternative program.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This helps the existing program be more accessible for all schools that need it across the state
  • We know what knowledge and skills are required at the end of these types of programs, we don’t need all of them to be individualized as they are now

In Further Detail: This program exists because we have a shortage in the state of people who either have a principal’s license or who meet the immediate qualifications for it to fill all of the principal and assistant principal jobs in the state. But right now it is too fussy—the need to create individualized programs for any person interested creates large roadblocks. And it is not necessary, we know what knowledge people need to have at the end of the process so we can design set programs that schools can access when they need to. This bill should help us unlock the full potential of this program and ensure that all schools in the state that need it can easily access it.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • On-the-job training of this sort brings people with a variety of different gaps in their skills and knowledge and therefore a personalized program is going to work better
  • We can support schools struggling with creating personalized programs in other ways

In Further Detail: This is on-the-job training. We are taking the leadership position in a school and saying we’ll give to someone who we’ll teach how to do the job while they are in it. Sometimes the need is so great that we have no other choice, but in all such cases the individual skills the person brings to the position is incredibly important. Because we are dealing with a wide variety of past experiences and therefore a variety of different gaps in skills and knowledge. So if we don’t have a personalized program, we are going to be inefficient in ensuring we get qualified principals out the other end. That may mean worse results. If we need to give smaller schools more support to navigate personalized programs, we can do that without opening up the door in this manner.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-058

SB21-067 Strengthening Civics Education (Coram (R), Hansen (D))

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Increase state requirements on teaching civics, including the structure of our government and how it came to be that way through history
  • Create a state seal of civics teaching excellence to be awarded to deserving schools. Anyone earning the seal will be publicly acknowledged and celebrated at the legislature
  • Create a diploma endorsement in civics for high school graduates who meet certain criteria

Description:

The precise new instruction requirements are: teaching the three branches of government, how laws are created at the federal, state, and local level, and how citizens shape and influence government policy and actions; and formation and development of the government of the US and of Colorado using foundation documents and the significance of these documents in modern society (See Additional Information for more detail). Standards must be reviewed as soon as possible to address these additions and the state board must take into consideration the recommendations of the history, culture, social contributions, and civil government in education commission.

Schools must apply for the seal of excellence. The state must work with the history, culture, social contributions, and civil government in education commission to come up with criteria for the award, but this must at minimum include:

  • Incorporating civics across a broad range of grades and subjects
  • Following the standards laid out in the bill
  • Instruction in news media literacy
  • High-quality, project-based assessments in civics at least twice in grades 4-8 and once in grades 9-12. The assessment must demonstrate that the student has learned what state standards require and show understanding of the learning areas required by the bill
  • Provide opportunities for students to engage in real-world learning activities, which can include mock elections
  • Require students to engage in service learning opportunities to address issues in their communities
  • Partner with local governments or service clubs or other civic organizations to provide opportunities for students to participate in internships, apprenticeships, or other civic engagements outside the classroom
  • Partner with History Colorado to engage in service learning opportunities or other programs that can accessed remotely
  • Provide evidence of student learning and achievement in civics

Schools can partner with local service organizations and solicit donations. Any district that has 90% or more of its schools earn the seal gets a seal of excellence for the entire district.

The requirements to get a civics endorsement for a high-school diploma are:

  • Overall GPA of at least 3.5 in all social studies course requirements
  • Passing the advanced placement test in US government and politics with at least a score of 4 (if offered by the school)
  • One or more service learning projects in the community post-6th grade
  • Participates in at least one of the following: simulations of the democratic process in or outside the classroom; at least one full term on the state’s youth advisory council; at least one year in the state’s student leader’s institute
  • Complete a capstone project in civics that is project-based and experiential, and addresses one or more issues in the student’s community

Additional Information:

The precise founding documents that must be taught are: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, the US and Colorado Bill of Rights, amendments to both Constitutions, and other foundational documents including landmark court cases.

Schools must provide annual information to students about the requirements needed to get the civic endorsement to a diploma starting in 6th grade.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • We have a crisis of citizenship in this country, including recognition of our democratic form of government and how precisely it works
  • No form of democracy can survive a disinterested and unengaged citizenry
  • Our focus on reading, writing, and math has left social studies and civics in the dust in our schools. We need to refocus

In Further Detail: Our current political environment speaks to the extreme crisis we are facing. Citizens do not understand the basics of how our Constitution works, what the powers of various branches of government are, or even hold bedrock beliefs in the importance of democracy. Study after study finds adults who don’t know the branches of government, can’t name their representatives, and lack basic understanding or interest in current events. We now have sizeable numbers of people who believe in conspiracy theories with completely false notions of how the federal government operates and how the president is (and is not) chosen. Part of this is a failure of engagement, which works best when it starts early. Voting, engaging in the issues of the day, appreciating free speech and civil discourse, all of these things are habits that can be built over time. No democracy can survive if its voting citizens don’t care enough—eventually forces of authoritarianism will take root. A prime place to build these habits is school, but unfortunately our increased focus on reading, writing, and math standards has left civics with fewer resources and time. This bill will reset some of that balance and acknowledge those schools and students who excel in this area.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We just had the biggest turnout election in modern times—a lot of the problems in our civics and our discourse stem from media consumption habits not lack of interest
  • We do not have infinite time or resources in school and we’re rightly acknowledged that a foundation in reading, writing, and math are critical to success later in life. It’s not that we aren’t teaching civics—we just have to prioritize

In Further Detail: Our problem as a country does not seem to stem so much from lack of interest. Or really lack of schooling. Everyone learns about the three branches in school. Rather the issue seems to be media consumption habits that allow vast amounts of disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies to be how people view and understand the world. We just had the losing candidate for President, who got 7 million fewer votes than his opponent, get more votes than anyone has ever previously gotten in the history of our country. So fixing our civics problem seems to be more about fixing our media problem. When it comes to schools themselves, if we had unlimited time and resources of course teaching civics is important and can be done in a variety of methods. But we have to prioritize and while we give the basic foundation in civics, we have to drill much deeper in reading, writing, and math.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-067