Capitol Report: A union endorsement, a surprise in the local share, and the price of opting out

Welcome to a very Super Bowl edition of Capitol Report. Earlier this afternoon, the grocery store was full of roving gangs of men in search of party platters. As I write this, the Eagles are leading the Patriots. By the time you read it, perhaps that will not be the case. It’s not over until it’s over – kind of like the legislative process.

The big political news in education this week wasn’t precisely at the Capitol. The Colorado Education Association and the Colorado chapter of the American Federation of Teachers officially threw their support behind Democrat Cary Kennedy for governor.

Will their support be enough to overcome the significant money advantage that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis holds? Here’s what CEA President Kerrie Dallman had to say: “The benefit of our recommendation is that we have 35,000 members across the state that will go out and tell their neighbors how wonderful Cary is and her vision for moving Colorado forward.”

Also this week, the Joint Budget Committee had to decide what to do with $104 million that local schools won’t be getting from the state because higher property values generated more money for the local share than expected. That debate touched on the major budget battle of this legislative session, as Republicans wanted to put it in the general fund and Democrats wanted to keep it in an education fund.

Several bills that nibble around the edges of the teacher shortage passed out of committee with bipartisan support. Two would make money available for people trying to become teachers in rural schools, and a third would make it easier for military spouses to get licensed to teach in Colorado.

This coming week, the Senate Education Committee will take up a bipartisan bill to further protect students who opt out of taking state assessments. Education providers who are found to have punished students for opting out – by not letting them participate in an activity, for example – could face a penalty in their accreditation rating.

This bill comes as Colorado is still waiting to hear from the federal government if its plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act will be approved. The federal government wants Colorado to treat students who opt out as “not proficient” and for schools’ quality ratings to reflect that. Colorado’s compromise proposal calls for two ratings systems, one that satisfies the feds and one that complies with state law.

And with that, I’ll hit send before reality messes with my first paragraph. May all your underdogs come up winners.

– Erica Meltzer, bureau chief


Top Stories

Cary Kennedy ‘aligns with all of our issues and values,” teachers union president says in endorsement

Two influential teachers unions have endorsed Cary Kennedy in the Democratic primary for governor. It’s the first time that CEA has endorsed in a gubernatorial primary, according to union president Kerrie Dallman. This is also the first competitive Democratic primary for governor in two decades. Read more

Report: Colorado’s charter school laws are the second best in the nation

Last year’s compromise on charter school funding equity led the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to move Colorado up to second place in its national ranking of the legal and regulatory environment in which charter schools have to operate. Read more

What $10,000 fellowships for rural teachers will and won’t do to address teacher shortages

Backers of a bill that would establish a new fellowship program for rural educators acknowledge that it won’t, by itself, attract enough qualified teachers to meet the need in small communities outside the Front Range. But it could help students like Kenia Pinela complete her student teaching and get a full-time job in the community where she grew up.

The rural fellowships bill, which passed out of committee on a 9-2 vote, is just one of what lawmakers say will be a package of bills to address Colorado’s difficulties filling some teacher jobs. Read more

Higher property values mean Colorado is getting a refund on K-12 education

Colorado is getting back $104 million that the state planned to spend on schools because local property taxes generated a lot more money than anyone anticipated and there were slightly fewer students than predicted. A disagreement about where to stash the money is tied to the big budget battle of this session. Read more

The four-day week, once a tool of rural districts, is coming to a Denver metro school district

Brighton is hardly the first district in Colorado or the country to consider taking this step, but it would be the largest and most urban. Voters in District 27J haven’t approved a mill levy override since 2000. Read more

Did new evaluations and weaker tenure make fewer people want to become teachers? A new study says yes.

Matt Kraft, a Brown University professor and one of the study’s authors, said he thought changes to prevailing teacher evaluation systems were necessary, but warned they may have caused as much harm as good.

“In our effort to move towards a better direction, were the costs larger than the benefits? That’s quite possible,” he said. Read more

What to expect next

Follow education-related bills from start to finish with our 2018 Bill Tracker here.


House, second reading, 10 a.m.

  • HB18-1005 – Notice to Students of Postsecondary Courses
  • HB18-1095 – Educator License Requirements Military Spouses
  • HB18-1100 – Educator Licensure Cash Fund
  • HB18-1101 – Retail Marijuana Sales Tax Appropriation for Schools

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

  • HB18-1141 – Modernize Early Childhood Council Language
  • HB18-1052 – Exception to 2-year Higher Education Service Areas
  • HB18-1014 – Social Studies Assessment in High School

Senate, second reading, 10 a.m.

  • SB18-002 – Financing Rural Broadband Deployment

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, SCR 357, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB18-004 – Funding for Full-day Kindergarten
  • SB18-058 – Failure to Report Child Abuse Statute of Limitations
  • SB18-087 – In-state Tuition Foreign Nationals Settled in Colorado


House Business Affairs and Labor, LSB A, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB18-1001 – FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program

Senate Finance, SCR 357, 2 p.m.

  • SB18-083 – Education Income Tax Credits for Nonpublic School


House Education, HCR 0112, upon adjournment

  • HB18-1134 – Use of Colorado Preschool Program Positions

Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, SCR 357, 1:30 p.m.

  • SB18-075 – Campaign Contribution Limits School District Director


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

  • SB18-011 – Students Excused from Taking State Assessments
  • SB18-151 – Colorado Department of Education Bullying Policies Research

What we’re reading

A former legislative staffer who accused state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican from Hot Sulphur Springs, of sexual misconduct says that an investigation found her complaint to be credible. Republican leaders in the Senate declined to comment on the situation to public radio reporter Bente Birkeland, who also broke news last year of multiple allegations against state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat. Baumgardner chairs the Senate Transportation Committee and is one of the sponsors of the transportation bonding bill that represents his caucus’s top legislative priority. KUNC

Lebsock, who is awaiting the results of an investigation into his own behavior with female colleagues, filibustered a bill that expands the board overseeing the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund. Colorado Politics

A measure that would have allowed supervised injection sites – facilities where intravenous drug users can get high with medical supervision and less risk of overdose and death – is in trouble, despite securing bipartisan support from an interim committee in the fall. Denver Post

A Republican-backed income tax reduction cleared the Senate Finance Committee but faces dim prospects in the House. Tax policy experts reminded lawmakers at the committee hearing of the austerity measures that state government had to take in the aughts when a recession followed on the heels of income tax cuts. Colorado Politics

A proposal to fund the development of rural broadband infrastructure appears likely to clear both chambers. This is a top economic issue for rural Colorado and one with implications for schools as well. Denver Post

State agencies and local government entities – cities, school districts, RTD – spent a collective $4 million on lobbying the state legislature in fiscal year 2017. They account for 13 percent of all money spent on lobbying. The top spender? The Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association. KUNC