At the halfway mark

Big stack of education bills still awaits action

The 2015 legislative session enters its second half Monday with lots of work remaining, including on key education issues.

As of Friday 80 education-related bills had been introduced out of the total 479 measures floated in the House and Senate.

A number of education bills have been disposed of – 19 have been killed in committee and six non-controversial housekeeper measures already have been sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But 27 bills haven’t even had their first committee hearings, and more measures are expected to surface, including on top issues like testing and school finance.

Some of the new measures introduced Friday relate to workforce development, which is emerging as the fashionable new education-related issue of 2015 for both Democrats and Republicans. Several of the workforce bills would affect schools and community colleges.

Those bills include:

House Bill 15-1270 – Allows creation of “p-tech” schools that would have a focus on STEM fields, combining high school and college-level classes with workplace experience. Bipartisan sponsorship.

House Bill 15-1274 – Proposes state creation of specific career pathways programs that students would use to train for employment in specific industries. Bipartisan sponsorship.

House Bill 15-1275 – Allows school districts to add apprenticeship and internship programs to the college classes now included in concurrent enrollment programs. Students use concurrent enrollment to take college classes while still in high school. Bipartisan sponsorship.

Previously introduced workforce/education bills involve career pathways (House Bill 15-1190) and career-tech scholarships (Senate Bill 15-082).

Also introduced Friday was House Bill 15-1273, which would add sexual assaults and unlawful use of marijuana on school grounds to the list of incidents that schools must report to the state. The bipartisan bill also sets requirements for law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to report school incidents to the state. And the measure requires the Division of Criminal Justice to compile periodic, detailed statewide report on school crimes and incidents.

The bill was prompted by legislator dissatisfaction with alleged gaps in school incident reporting highlighted by the 2013 fatal shooting at Littleton High School.

A bill proposing to change the way multidistrict online schools are regulated was introduced earlier in the week. Senate Bill 15-201 would change the current system, under which the Department of Education certifies such programs.

Instead, CDE would certify districts, BOCES and groups of districts that once certified would be allowed to authorize and oversee those online schools. This is a complicated and politically fraught issue. Some online schools and for-profit operators oppose regulation for such schools beyond what is provided by the state school accountability system. Other groups believe those schools need greater oversight because of low performance.

The bill doesn’t apply to online programs that districts run or authorize just for their own students.

The bill largely mirrors the recommendations made by the Online Task Force, which studied the issue over the summer and autumn. Read the panel’s report here, and see the bill text here.

The bill has been assigned not to the Senate Education Committee but to State Affairs, usually considered the chamber’s “kill committee.” But Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, is one of the bill’s prime sponsors, and he’s also a member of State Affairs.

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.