Capitol Report: The state budget is done, and school finance awaits

Welcome to another edition of Capitol Report.

Things are moving very quickly now, with just three weeks left in the session. The House and Senate signed off on the budget, allowing bills that had been waiting in their respective appropriations committees to advance. We'll see even more of that this week.

Full-day kindergarten cleared its first legislative hurdle with ease. No one showed up at the House Education Committee to oppose the idea. The bill just needs one more final vote in the House before it heads to the Senate.

Lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee advanced a bill that makes changes to the READ Act, including mandating new training for many early elementary teachers, but parents of students with dyslexia and some lawmakers fear that it doesn't go nearly far enough to address low rates of reading proficiency in the state.

A hearing on a controversial bill on personal exemptions for vaccines was put off due to inclement weather. That hearing is now set for Monday afternoon and could stretch into the evening.

Across the street at the Colorado Department of Education, the State Board of Ed reversed itself on whether one school district could serve as the external manager for another. The decision leaves Adams 14 with not much time to identify a new external manager to start the work of turning around the long-struggling district.

The big outstanding piece of legislation remains the School Finance Act. Rural districts are pressing lawmakers to include an extra $30 million for their schools, a continuation of "one-time" funding that they've received the last two years. The Joint Budget Committee declined — on a 3-3 vote — to include this money in the budget, but the recent forecast about the residential assessment rate means there might be extra money after all. Basically, the rate won't be going down as much as many had feared, which means local property taxes will generate more money, which means the state has more money to work with. For its part, the Colorado Education Association sees the news as an opportunity to reduce the budget stabilization factor a bit more.

Could K-12 squeeze just a little more money out of this session? The next few weeks will tell.

Read on.

— Erica Meltzer, bureau chief

Top Stories

Colorado full-day kindergarten bill clears first legislative hurdle

The unanimous vote, met with cheers and applause, came after a parade of Coloradans including teachers, parents, business leaders, school administrators, and school board members espoused the benefits of having children attend full-day kindergarten at no cost to families. No one showed up to oppose House Bill 1262. Read more

Effort to reduce Colorado dropout rate may get $1.5 million boost

When Kenneth Rufino started high school, he had recently arrived from Guatemala with no English skills. He got the educational boost he needed as a freshman at Aurora’s Gateway High School, and now he’s a junior with an eye on being a high school graduate. State lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis want more Colorado ninth-graders to get that boost. Read more

Colorado literacy bill mandating more teacher training advances

A Colorado bill that would require many early elementary teachers to undergo new training in reading instruction passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, but not before lawmakers and parent activists expressed concern that the proposal represents a meager effort against a massive problem: that roughly 60 percent of Colorado third-graders do not read at grade level. Read more

Colorado legislative round up: Bills aimed at helping at-risk students advance

Many of the education bills wending their way through the Colorado General Assembly aim to provide students with more than academics. They seek to offer help to students who face social and emotional challenges and to encourage schools to extend support to families. Also moving forward: full-day kindergarten and two related bills that would remove the TABOR cap and allocate a third of any additional revenue to K-12 education. Read more

Colorado educators, share your thoughts on early childhood suspensions

Teachers, principals, social workers, and psychologists, we’d like to hear from you. How do you feel about a possible state law restricting suspensions in the early grades? Does it go too far, or not far enough? Will it affect how you do your job? Or how your classroom and school operate? Share your perspective by filling out our brief survey. Read more

Adams 14 superintendent out as leader of the troubled district

Superintendent Javier Abrego is getting a raise on this way out. The decision comes as the district is preparing to turn control over to an external manager on orders from the State Board of Education after spending eight years on a performance watch list. Read more

State Board rejects Mapleton as Adams 14 manager and apologizes for not acting sooner

“We didn’t react properly to express an opinion that this was never a viable option,” board member Steve Durham said Thursday. “We allowed this to drag on and in many ways jeopardized or minimized the opportunity for success. I think that was a mistake that we made, or at least that I made as a board member.” State Board members also said they don’t believe any school district should attempt to serve in that role. Board President Angelika Schroeder questioned whether the state should draft that prohibition into future orders for districts. Read more

What to expect next

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


House, third reading

  • HB19-1013 — Child Care Expenses Tax Credit Low-income Families
  • HB19-1110 — Media Literacy
  • HB19-1120 — Youth Mental Health Education And Suicide Prevention
  • HB19-1132 — School Incentives To Use Colorado Food And Producers
  • HB19-1134 — Identification And Interventions For Students With Dyslexia
  • HB19-1171 — Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act
  • HB19-1187 — Increase Student Aid Application Completion Rates
  • HB19-1257 — Voter Approval To Retain Revenue For Education and Transportation
  • HB19-1258 — Allocate Voter-approved Revenue For Education and Transportation
  • HB19-1262 — State Funding For Full-day Kindergarten

Senate, third reading

  • SB19-059 — Automatic Enrollment In Advanced Course Grant Program
  • SB19-104 — Elimination Of Duplicate Regulation Of School Building

Senate, second reading

  • SB19-196 — Colorado Quality Apprenticeship Training Act Of 2019

House Health and Insurance, Old State Library, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1312 — School Immunization Requirements


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

  • SB19-176 — Expanding Concurrent Enrollment Opportunities
  • SB19-190 — Teacher Preparation Program Support
  • SB19-199 — READ Act Implementation Measures
  • SB19-215 — Parents Encouraging Parents Conference

Senate, second reading

  • SB19-171 — Apprenticeships And Vocational Technical Training
  • HB19-1194 — School Discipline For Preschool Through Second Grade
  • HB19-1196 — Financial Aid For Students With In-state Tuition

House, second reading

  • SB19-189 — Sunset Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board

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

  • HB19-1277 — Computer Science Grant Program
  • SB19-170 — Inquiry Into College Applicant Criminal History
  • HB19-1294 — Transfer Apprenticeship Credit To College Credit


Senate Education, SCR 352, upon adjournment

  • HB19-1222 — International Baccalaureate Exam Fee Grant

House Finance, HCR 0112, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB19-137 — Extend The Colorado Student Leaders Institute

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

  • Consideration of potential legislation


Legislative Council, Old State Library, 8 a.m.

  • Presentation and approval of requests creating interim study committees
  • HB19-1024 — Colorado Youth Advisory Council Review Committee
  • SB19-094 — Extend School Finance Interim Committee

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

  • SB19-007 — Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses

What else we’re reading

Democratic candidates for president are making education a key plank of their policy platforms and consciously pursuing the teacher vote. Ed Week

Colorado lawmakers have finalized the 2019-20 budget. Colorado Sun

New news about the residential assessment rate could free up some additional money for bills waiting in the wings, including the School Finance Act. Colorado Politics (paywall)

In a three-page “statement of administration policy,” Gov. Jared Polis makes it clear that he won’t support legislation that limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. That presents a challenging path for lawmakers who want to pass a bill to do just that. Colorado Independent

Colorado lawmakers are pushing changes to the tax code that would require online retailers to assess sales tax based on the address of the buyer. Denver Post

Vaccines continue to be a battleground in Colorado, where rates at some schools are far below the threshold to preserve herd immunity. Colorado Public Radio

A key component of a bill that requires more inclusion in classes on history and government is the opportunity for community input on those courses. The Inclusion Of American Minorities In Teaching Civil Government Act would establish a 16-member commission comprised of members from those minority communities. Denverite

In an effort to understand the “why” behind the Columbine shooting, journalists unwittingly contributed to the creation of a myth that has now inspired dozens of other murderers. Colorado Sun

More funding goes to physical security features than to mental health supports in schools, and Colorado schools fall far short of recommended numbers of social workers, school psychologists, and nurses. Colorado Sun

In the 20 years since Columbine, there has been very little progress on gun control. Denver Post

Gov. Jared Polis this week signed into law a hard-fought “red flag” bill that proponents hope will prevent future mass shootings, as well as far more common suicides. Controversy over the measure is likely to continue, though, as some county sheriffs have said they will not enforce it. Denver Post