Welcome to the BVSD Legislative Update, which will be provided throughout the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly. 

Friday, Feb. 24, 2017

Ranks of education bills get thinned

The 2017 legislative session is already one-third finished, and it's the time of the session when bills start getting killed in earnest.

That pattern holds true for bills related to education. Just over 40 K-12 measures have been introduced so far this session, and about a quarter of them have been "postponed indefinitely," statehouse jargon for dead for the session.

There aren't any surprises about the dead education bills. Many were "statement" bills – measures introduced to make a point but which sponsors really didn't expect to pass. Such bills often are introduced session after session. Education lobbyists usually don't spend a lot of effort on such bills because they knew the measures would fail.

But it's worth noting the dead bills, if only as a reminder of proposals districts don't have to worry about in the coming school year. Here's a rundown on some bills of note.

Educator evaluations - Democratic Sen. Mike Merrifield's annual effort to reduce or eliminate the requirement that 50 percent of educator evaluations be based on student academic growth (SB 067) has died in a Senate committee.

Guns in schools – The familiar measure to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry weapons on school grounds (HB 1036) didn't make it out of a House committee. A related measure (SB 005) would allow districts to work with county sheriffs to set up training programs for staff members who carry arms at school. It remains alive in the Senate and may pass there but won't have much chance in the House.

Kindergarten funding – Annual bills on this issue mostly serve as a reminder to lawmakers that the state only covers 58 percent of kindergarten funding. One measure (SB 029) has died in a Senate committee. Another proposal (HB 1042) was approved by the House Education Committee but is expected to die later in appropriations.

Immigration – A measure killed by a House committee early Thursday (HB 1134) didn't receive a lot of attention in education circles, but it could have had an impact on districts. The bill would have made elected officials – including school board members – subject to civil lawsuits if they did anything to create or promote "sanctuary policies" for undocumented persons.

Testing – As I wrote last week, three bills that sought to eliminate ninth-grade testing or give districts flexibility in giving those tests have died. The one remaining measure (HB 1181) would replace the ninth-grade CMAS tests with a college preparedness exam.

Although they remain alive and on Capitol calendars, some other education bills aren't expected to survive. They include measures to require multi-cultural content in history and civics classes (HB 1022), cap employer contributions to the Public Employees' Retirement Association (SB 113), ban compulsory union membership (SB 055) and allow tax credits for private school tuition (SB 039).

Each year, the BVSD Board of Education sets BVSD's legislative priorities for the session. The Superintendent's office directs the lobbying work of BVSD's legislative consulting firm, Policy Matters, LLC. BVSD also works with other PK-12 policy organizations such as the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), the Colorado Education Association (CEA), and Great Education Colorado, a nonpartisan organization advocating for the benefit of Colorado's more than 800,000 public school students. Addressing Colorado's chronic shortfall in school funding is always on BVSD's legislative agenda along with other issues that could impact classrooms. If you are not yet on the email list and would like to be, please email BVSD Communications at communications@bvsd.org with your email address and you will be added to the distribution list.