Capitol Report: Full-day kindergarten gets its first hearing and so does a new vaccine bill

Welcome to the Four Weeks to Go edition of Capitol Report.

Education funding made it through the budget process theoretically intact, though we still don't know where lawmakers will find another $70 million for transportation. Meanwhile, the Colorado Education Association continues to push lawmakers to put some of that money toward a larger reduction in the negative factor. It doesn't seem like that effort is getting traction, though.

Also on the money front: state Sen. Bob Rankin said he won't introduce a bill to push districts toward a uniform mill levy this year. He started the session with this idea, a potential school finance game-changer, as one of his priorities, but many of the districts he represents would be hit hard. Advocates hope it comes back next year. We've got that story below.

Full-day kindergarten gets its first hearing on Tuesday in House Education, and changes to the READ Act, which weren't quite ready for prime time last week, are back in Senate Education on Wednesday. One thing that struck me looking at districts that already do full-day is how many are using READ Act dollars. This is an allowed use, and full-day kindergarten programs are associated with better literacy rates. But if policy makers are wondering why we haven't seen more impact from $33 million a year to help the readers who struggle the most, this kind of dollar-shuffling might be one factor.

Below, we've got a story looking at the plans of large Colorado school districts to add full-day kindergarten, potentially complicating the funding debate, and another looking at how Colorado fits in the national context. You might be surprised which state is the model for full-day kindergarten and publicly funded preschool.

Also in House Education this week, lawmakers are returning — for action only — to a proposal that would make it much harder for school districts to outsource certain services, like transportation and custodial work. There was strong opposition from school districts and some practical questions about the impact of the bill at the hearing two weeks ago.

In House Health, lawmakers will consider a bill that would raise the bar to get a personal belief exemption and avoid vaccinating your child. This bill doesn't go nearly as far as originally proposed: There's no ban on personal belief exemptions in a state with alarmingly low vaccination rates.

But expect this one to be controversial. HB19-1312 School Immunization Requirements almost immediately bumped HB19-1032 Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education from the "most accessed bills" list, where sex ed had dominated for weeks.

As we approach the final weeks of the session, another bill we haven't seen drop is changes to teacher evaluation. Organizations associated with the education reform movement pushed back hard on a proposal to formally evaluate effective teachers just once every three years. We're waiting to see what form the bill eventually takes — or if it comes at all.

There's lots more stories below. Read on.

— Erica Meltzer, bureau chief

Top Stories

Colorado districts moving quickly toward full-day kindergarten, complicating funding debate

Large Colorado school districts that collectively serve thousands of children in half-day kindergarten programs are preparing to switch to full-day programs this fall, potentially pushing up the cost of Gov. Jared Polis’ signature education initiative. The first hearing on bipartisan legislation takes place this week in the House Education Committee, and there is significant political momentum behind it. Read more

Full-day kindergarten across the nation: How does Colorado compare?

About a dozen states require districts to offer full-day kindergarten and run it for the same number of hours as first grade, according to a 2016 report from the Education Commission of the States. They also ban schools from charging tuition. In Colorado, a low-tax state with lower-than-average school funding, none of these things are true. Read more

Will Colorado reform its checkerboard of school taxes? Not this year.

With less than a month left in the legislative session, state Sen. Bob Rankin said he will not introduce a bill to encourage school districts to adopt uniform tax rates because some of the districts he represents would be hard hit by the change. “I agonized over this because I truly believe fixing school finance depends on it,” he said. “It’s about representing my constituents.” Read more

Colorado lawmakers to consider higher bar for vaccine exemptions

A proposed bill would make it harder for Colorado parents to opt their children out of immunizations for personal or religious reasons by requiring an in-person visit to their local health department to get a signature on the exemption form. Read more

Amid broader budget debate, a proposal for more Colorado school funding advances

A bill that would ask voters to let Colorado keep more tax revenue — with a third of the money going toward schools — moved forward, even as backers stressed that it is not a “cure-all” for the state’s broader fiscal challenges. Read more

Colorado K-12 funding unscathed as House considers state budget

Colorado’s K-12 education budget avoided cuts that some advocates had feared in the state House even as Republicans and Democrats brokered a deal to increase transportation spending. Read more

Colorado bill to allow teen voting fails over worries about process and legality

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 8-1 Wednesday to postpone House Bill 1243 indefinitely, effectively killing the bill. It would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to vote for school board members, members of the State Board of Education and in elections to increase school district taxes or to issue debt for construction. Read more

High school students taking more college courses, but it isn’t enough for lawmakers

More than one-third of 11th and 12th graders took college courses during the 2017-18 academic year, and participation in dual enrollment programs increased among non-white students. But numbers for some groups still lag their proportion of the population, and Colorado hasn’t met its goals. Read more

Effort to increase college courses in high school moves ahead

A measure aimed at increasing the number of Colorado students taking college courses while in high school received unanimous Senate committee endorsement Wednesday. That came despite concerns voiced by representatives of rural school districts about costs and difficulty finding qualified teachers to offer such courses. Read more

With four weeks to go, here’s an update on Colorado education bills

Money has been on the minds of Colorado education advocates during the past two weeks as lawmakers sought to find funding for transportation. Many bills that require funding await final action on the budget before consideration by appropriations committees. Let’s round up the recent action. Read more

What to expect next

Follow education-related bills from start to finish with our 2019 Bill Tracker here.


House, third reading

  • SB19-183 — Alternate Procedure To Reorganize School Districts

Senate, third reading

  • SB19-170 — Inquiry Into College Applicant Criminal History
  • HB19-1206 — Higher Education Supplemental Academic Instruction


House Appropriations, LSB A, 8 a.m.

  • HB19-1257 — Voter Approval To Retain Revenue For Education & Transportation
  • HB19-1258 — Allocate Voter-approved Revenue For Education & Transportation

House Education, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB19-137 — Extend The Colorado Student Leaders Institute
  • HB19-1236 — Workforce Diploma Pilot Program (For Action Only)
  • HB19-1262 — State Funding For Full-day Kindergarten


Senate Education, SCR 352, upon adjournment

  • SB19-216 — High School Innovative Learning Pilot
  • SB19-199 — READ Act Implementation Measures

House Health and Insurance, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1312 — School Immunization Requirements

Joint Budget Committee, JBC hearing room, 1:30 p.m.

  • Consideration of potential legislation


House Education, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB19-002 — Regulate Student Education Loan Servicers
  • HB19-1249 — Safety And Accountability In School Contracts (For Action Only)
  • SB19-010 — Professional Behavioral Health Services For Schools
  • HB19-1276 — Ninth Grade Success Grant Program
  • SB19-189 — Sunset Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board

Senate Education, SCR 352, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB19-231 — Colorado Second Chance Scholarship
  • HB19-1196 — Financial Aid For Students With In-state Tuition
  • HB19-1192 — Inclusion Of American Minorities In Teaching Civil Government
  • HB19-1194 — School Discipline For Preschool Through Second Grade
  • SB19-204 — Public School Local Accountability Systems


Senate Appropriations, LSB B, 7:30 a.m.

  • SB19-059 — Automatic Enrollment In Advanced Course Grant Program
  • SB19-104 — Elimination Of Duplicate Regulation Of School Building
  • SB19-161 — Sunset Council For Parent Involvement In Education
  • SB19-171 — Apprenticeships And Vocational Technical Training

What else we’re reading

Michael Bennet has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was caught early, and he tells Mike Littwin he still intends to run for president if he’s cancer-free after surgery. We wish him the best. Colorado Independent

Controversial new oil and gas regulations that would give local communities more control over extraction activity are on the way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis. Here’s a look at what these new rules mean and what comes next. Colorado Independent

Critics of state Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Greeley Democrat, are collecting signatures in an effort to recall her, ostensibly over her support for oil and gas regulation. The Denver Post

One of the leaders of an effort to recall Jared Polis, Colorado’s gay, Jewish governor, has a history of sharing anti-Semitic posts on Facebook and another once argued Hitler was good to the German people. Greeley Tribune

Mario Nicolais asks: What does it mean to be an “establishment” Republican when the former outsiders hold leadership positions in the legislature and control most of the money? Colorado Sun

Gov. Jared Polis has signed into a law a bill allowing medical marijuana to be used for autism spectrum disorders. The Denver Post

Democrats’ 19-16 majority in the state Senate was not enough to bring a death penalty repeal to the floor, and the two chief champions of a repeal are sparring over what went wrong and what should happen next. But expect this issue to return in 2020, with more care for the feelings of state Sen. Rhonda Fields, whose son was murdered by two of the three men on Colorado’s death row. Colorado Independent

The most recent episode of Purplish looks at the story of Colorado’s first fractivist, a concerned citizen who rallied Greeley (yes, that Greeley) to restrict oil and gas activity, in a battle that ended up limiting local control. Colorado Public Radio

Elsewhere … Arizona Republicans have revived a measure that would fine teachers up to $5,000 for discussing religion or politics in the classroom. CBS 5

Just for fun … If you’ve ever driven past the pink-lit loft at 18th and Park in Denver, you’ve probably wondered about the person who occupies this home. An intrepid journalistic duo became just the sixth and seventh people to ever enter the home. This is a remarkable Denver story with great photos. Denverite

And this perfect summation of every Colorado budget amendment debate. Rep. Matt Gray on Twitter