The 2014 student data privacy bill was delayed, a cyberbullying measure advanced and a contentious bill on school board executive sessions was killed Wednesday as both houses and three separate committees worked through a big stack of education bills.
It was one of the longest daily calendars of education bills so far this session. Also advanced were a bill that would allow Colorado State University Global Campus to expand its reach, and the measure that would give the state’s district and school rating system more flexibility to handle the “data gap” that will occur after Colorado launches new tests in 2015.
That measure, House Bill 14-1182, sailed out of the House March 3 on a 59-0 bipartisan vote. But all three Republicans on the Senate Education Committee voted against it on Wednesday, indicating that the bill may get more debate in the Senate.
Here’s a look at the day’s developments in education.
Data privacy bill held over until next week
Common Core Standards, state testing and student data privacy have emerged as hot issues this year. A bill to delay standards implementation has been killed, and it looks like the only action on testing may be creation of a task force to study the issue.
A data security proposal, House 14-1294, had its first hearing Wednesday in the House Education Committee.
Sponsored by Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, the bill would impose eight data security requirements on the Department of Education – all things the department says it’s doing already. The bill wouldn’t impose any new requirements on school districts and only would require CDE to create a “data security template” that districts could use.
Several witnesses argued that the bill doesn’t go far enough and urged addition of requirements for districts.
“The focus should be expanded to the local district and student level,” testified Paula Noonan, a former Jefferson County school board member. Other witnesses included several Jeffco parents who were active in the campaign against the inBloom data system that Jeffco was using but since has junked.
“The technology has simply gotten ahead of the leadership of our state and our schools,” Flynn said. “This has caused parents to lose trust in the public education system.”
Committee chair Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, noted that the bill can’t be expanded to cover local districts because its formal title, which restricts what can be included in the bill, is limited to data administered by CDE.
Murray said she was sympathetic to what the witnesses said but that felt data security requirements for districts need “a much bigger and longer discussion” than is possible this year. “At some point we need a mandate,” she said.
She and other committee members do have some amendments for the bill, but the committee didn’t get to those because the hearing ran past the lunch hour, and another panel had the meeting room reserved starting at 1:30 p.m.
Hamner laid the bill over for amendments and a vote at the committee’s meeting next Monday.
Cyberbullying bill passes – with complaints
The House gave 54-10 final approval to House Bill 14-1131, the measure that would make cyberbullying a separate misdemeanor in state law.
The bill prompted emotional testimony during House Education Committee consideration and was the focus of a partisan fight during preliminary floor debate last Monday.
The measure sets a two-tier penalty system. Cyberbullying would be a class 2 misdemeanor, but the crime would be a more serious class 1 offense if bullying took place because of “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
A class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by 6-18 months in the jail and/or a $500-$5,000 fine while a class 2 misdemeanor can get 3-12 months in the jail and/or a $250-$1,000 fine.
On Monday Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, proposed an amendment making all cyber bullying a class 1 offense. He lost that fight, voted for the bill Wednesday but said he still doesn’t like the two-tier language.
Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, also voted yes but complained, “this bill does not provide equal protection of all children.”
Both said they hope Senate colleagues will try to amend the bill. The final vote was 54 in favor and 10 other Republicans voting no.
Read the bill here.
School board executive sessions bill killed — for now
House Bill 14-1110 has emerged in recent weeks as one of 2014’s more controversial education measures.
The bill would have imposed new requirements for recording of school board executive sessions and required boards to keep logs generally describing issues discussed behind closed doors and how much time was spent on each subject.
The bill was prompted partly by the extensive use of executive sessions by the Douglas County board and the suspicion by board critics that members were using closed meetings to discussion policy issues that aren’t supposed to be discussed in private.
But the legislative debate focused on the broader issue of whether the bill would compromise the long-standing legal doctrine of attorney-client confidentiality.
The bill survived such criticism in the House and passed 34-31.
The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony on the bill March 3 and was supposed to vote Wednesday. Sponsor Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, cut the session short by asking the committee to kill the bill, which the panel did.
Hodge explained after the meeting that she didn’t have enough votes on the floor to pass the bill but might try a new version later this session – if she can come up with language to assuage opponents. Asked about the opposition, she said, “Those darn lawyers,” and smiled.
Republicans have questions about accreditation “data gap” bill
One of 2014’s more important – if technical – measures is House Bill 14-1182. The proposal, developed by the Department of Education, proposes that district and school accreditation ratings issued next fall, which will be based on 2013-14 test results, apply to both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.
The department feels the bill is necessary because results from the new 2015 CMAS tests won’t be available in time for the department to calculate ratings in the fall of 2015 and because student growth data, which requires more than a year of test results, also won’t be available. (Get more details in this story.)
The bill would allow districts that feel their ratings should be changed in 2015 to appeal to CDE and provide additional data. The bill also would give the State Board of Education additional flexibility in choosing intervention measures for schools that reach the end of the five-year “accountability clock.” (The board already has such flexibility for low-performing districts.)
The flexibility measures would be in effect for only a year.
Unlike their House colleagues, GOP members of the Senate Education Committee had questions during Wednesday’s hearing, and all voted no. Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley suspects such flexibility might be needed for more than a year. Sen. Mark Scheffel of Parker was worried the bill gives the State Board too much power. Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins explained – at length – that she opposes the bill because it’s part of the whole standards-testing-reform education system that she’s against in general.
So the 4-3 committee vote indicates the bill may see more floor debate in the Senate than it did in the House.
Expansion of CSU Global gets committee approval
Witnesses supporting Senate Bill 14-114 gave an encore performance of testimony presented in the Senate, and the House Education Committee responded by passing the measure 11-1 on Wednesday.
The measure would give Colorado State University Global Campus authority to enroll freshman and sophomore-level students in its online-only programs. The bill is a carefully crafted compromise with the community college system, which feared expansion of Global would poach its own online and campus students.
So the bill has several restrictions, including one that prevents Global from enrolling Colorado freshmen students younger than age 23.
Murray thought Global should be given free rein and proposed an amendment to eliminate the age restriction. That would have unraveled the compromise that has kept the community colleges neutral on the bill and unleashed a lobbying firefight.
The committee apparently wanted to avoid that, and the amendment failed 2-10.
Five other mostly technical education bills were on Wednesday’s calendars. Check the Education Bill Tracker for what happened to them.