By Todd Engdahl, EDUCATION NEWS COLORADO
A bill that would have required schools to conduct two “all-hazards” safety drills a year died Thursday in the House Education Committee, with a majority of members indicating they felt the measure wasn’t necessary and infringed on local control of schools.
With much less testimony and discussion, the committee unanimously passed an important higher education bill. House Bill 10-1208 would expand the number of majors for which course credits can be transferred from community to four-year colleges.
The motion to pass the school safety bill, House Bill 10-1036, failed on a 4-7 vote, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats no. The committee then voted to postpone the bill indefinitely, meaning it can’t be revived this session.
The vote marked another frustration for Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who’s been pushing school safety bills for two sessions. He believes the state should require certain standard levels of safety planning and training so schools and colleges can be prepared for Columbine-type attacks, natural disasters and other major incidents.
Last year a broader King bill covering both schools and colleges was killed. Earlier this week House Ed passed a watered-down version of his House Bill 10-1054, which would require colleges to provide safety information to students and staff. (King originally had proposed specific safety training during student orientation.)
“Research and study don’t work when the bullets are flying. Drills do,” a passionate King told the committee. “We must resist studying the problem until death motivates us.”
Several witnesses and committee members argued that most schools already have proper safety plans and procedures and don’t need a state mandate.
Even school safety activist John Michael Keyes opposed the bill, saying such requirements shouldn’t be legislated. Keyes’ daughter, 16-year-old Emily, was killed by an intruder at Platte Canyon High School in 2007.
Committee consideration of HB 10-1208 was much more congenial, bipartisan and brief – all 13 panel members are cosponsors.
The measure would require the higher ed system to develop statewide credit transfer agreements in 14 subject areas by 2016. The bill kind of formalizes a process that’s already underway. The state already has four transfer agreements in place and hopes to have seven more done by spring. Community college system executives are pushing the bill.
Two other bills designed to make it easier for community college students to move on to four-year schools are pending this session. Senate Bill 10-088 would allow community college students to have majors, rather than just receiving associate’s degrees in general studies. The more controversial Senate Bill 10-108 would allow private and for-profit colleges to join the state’s system of courses that are transferrable from any college to any other.
More bills killed
House Ed Thursday also obliged the sponsors of two other bills who, unlike King, wanted their bills killed.
House Bill 10-1015, proposed by the school finance interim committee, would have created a stable-funding pilot program for small school districts that would have guaranteed state support for five years if such districts worked with neighboring districts or BOCES to achieve administrative efficiencies.
Some education groups were nervous about doing even a pilot program in a year when all school districts are facing much more serious financial issues. So, sponsoring Reps. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, and Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, told House Ed Thursday they wanted the bill killed.
“It wasn’t going to work in this fiscal environment,” said Massey. “For the record, it was a good idea,” Middleton commented.
House Bill 10-1066 would required the Department of Education to buy food and beverages for any board of cooperative education services that contracted with CDE. A new measure, House Bill 10-1335, was introduced by Massey Wednesday and would allow BOCES to operate school food service operations and create a CDE grant program for BOCES. The grants would be funded from gifts, grants and donations. Massey wants to proceed with the new bill so had the old one killed.
Senate Ed also kills bill
The Senate Education Committee Thursday also killed a bill at the sponsor’s request, in this case using the slightly different parliamentary technique of laying the bill over until after the legislature adjourns in May. The measure was Senate Bill 10-107, which would have required high schools that use Indian mascot names to get state approval for use of those names. Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, was the sponsor.
The committee approved Senate Bill 10-005, which is intended to improve the education of children who move from the Colorado Preschool Program to kindergarten by providing grants for such improvements as “smaller class size, fewer children per teacher, parental engagement, and specialized professional development for classroom staff.” This is another one of those high-aspirations, no-money education bills – the grants would be funded by gifts, grants and donations.
The committee also approved Senate Bill 10-081, which would create a farm-to-school coordination task force that would promote use in the schools of healthy foods produced by Colorado farmers.
Laid over for future consideration was Senate Bill 10-062, a complex measure that would change the way school categorical funds are distributed. (The categoricals are dedicated funds that reimburse school districts for certain specific costs like special education and transportation.) The money currently is included in the state’s main budget bill. SB 10-062 would require a separate bill for categorical spending and give the education committees a greater role in how the money is spent. It also would change the allocation of some special education funding.
The Senate confirmed Rico Munn as director of the Department of Higher Education.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information