Bullying bill passes House

Updated – The House voted 47-18 this morning to pass House Bill 11-1254, the proposed anti-bullying measure.

There was no additional debate on the measure. All the no votes were Republicans except for Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh.

Text of Tuesday story below

The anti-bullying bill received preliminary approval Tuesday in the House, which also voted for final passage of a measure designed to streamline the educator licensing process.

The bullying measure, House Bill 11-1254, would expand the legal definition of bullying, create a donation-funded grant program for “evidence-based” district anti-bullying efforts and encourage all districts to conduct biennial surveys on bullying and to create anti-bullying teams.

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker

The existing legal definition of bullying would be updated to include electronic forms of harassment and to specify that bullying is prohibited against students who are covered by state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

As originally introduced, the bill proposed several mandates on school districts. But the sponsors had the measure heavily amended in the House Education Committee, and most of the remaining requirements would apply only to districts that receive the anti-bullying grants.

The House spent half an hour discussing the bill, with 14 members speaking – several of them more than once. Most of the speakers were in support; Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, even said, “This may be the most important thing we do for our schools this year.”

But there was one dissenting voice. Freshman Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said, “I think this is the wrong answer to the right problem.

“The fundamental problem is that we’ve taken discipline out of our public schools. … As a society we have withdrawn that corporal punishment, that discipline in the schools. … This void of discipline sets up a framework that is destined to fail.”

House Bill 11-1201, the licensing measure, was passed 65-0. It streamlines the licensing process primarily by ending the requirement that the Department of Education verify that applicants had completed the academic work they need to qualify for various license endorsements. Instead, applicants would provide affidavits that they had completed the work.

The bill also gives CDE some additional flexibility, although not as much as originally proposed. The bill would allow the department to spend fee revenue without annual legislative approval through 2013-14. The department wants to hire additional employees to speed up licensing work, but the bill specifies those workers be contractors, not state employees, and that they work only through July 1, 2014.

A stated goal of the bill is to reduce the application turnaround process to less than six weeks. The department currently is several months backlogged.

The State Board of Education last month approved increased license fees, in some cases of more than 30 percent, to provide the extra revenue needed to help speed up the licensing process. Those went into effect March 1. CDE also is working to update the licensing office’s computer system, a project expected to be completed later this year.

The Senate Tuesday gave 35-0 final approval to Senate Bill 11-188, which modifies existing state law on a bond program for charter school construction. The bill proposes various procedural safeguards for oversight and conversion of charters that have bond debt and are in financial or other trouble.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information