By Todd Engdahl, EDUCATION NEWS COLORADO
The educator effectiveness bill squeaked out of its last committee, the CSAP cutback proposal was completely rewritten and the higher ed flexibility bill got final approval Monday as the 2010 legislative session moved into its chaotic final three days.
After an emotional and sometimes angry hearing, the House Appropriations Committee voted 7-6 to pass Senate Bill 10-191, the controversial educator evaluation and tenure bill, to the House floor for preliminary consideration.
But, House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, announced late in the afternoon that the would be heard on the floor Tuesday to give it sufficient time for debate and because amendments still were being drafted. (The House also had a social function Monday evening – the annual “Hummers” show in which members of the minority party spoof the majority.)
That means the House couldn’t take a final vote until Wednesday, the last day of the session, if the bill passes preliminary consideration on Tuesday. House-Senate differences also would have to be resolved on the last day.
Democratic appropriations members Mark Ferrandino of Denver and Jim Riesberg of Greeley joined the committee’s five Republicans to pass the bill out of committee. SB 10-191 passed the House Education Committee last Thursday on an equally slim 7-6 margin.
Ferrandino, the son of two school teachers who recounted his personal story of being a special education student, choked up and began to cry as he said he was going to vote for the bill. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this bill. … This is a difficult bill for me.”
Appropriations Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, was scathing in his criticism of both the Colorado Department of Education and of some business backers of the bill.
He accused CDE of changing its story about its financial condition, claiming earlier in the year that its budget was severely stressed yet now saying it can fund the initial costs of SB 10-191 from a department contingency fund if federal grants don’t come through.
“You tricked me,” Pommer said to Associate Commissioner Rich Wenning. Pommer noted that he’s leaving the House because of term limits, but “I think a top-to-bottom look at your funding would be appropriate.”
Pommer also had harsh words for business groups that support the bill, pointedly noting that some of them opposed elimination of tax exemptions Pommer sponsored earlier in the session. “When I looked at the list of supporters in the paper it turned my stomach,” Pommer said.
Democratic Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder, Sal Pace of Pueblo and Joel Judd of Denver also had harsh things to say about the bill.
Wenning and sponsors Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillion, and Carole Murrary, R-Castle Rock, remained composed under the criticism during the 35-minute hearing.
CSAP bill gets a whole new look
The Senate Senate Education Committee Monday gutted House Bill 10-1430, the measure that would have eliminated high school CSAP tests starting in the 9th grade next school year and also would have made writing tests a district, not a state responsibility.
The panel voted 6-2 for the new version, proposed by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, to replace the version proposed by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, and passed by the full House 47-16 last Thursday.
The new version reportedly is close to the provisions agreed to by several interest groups last March before Solano redid it. The Department of Education strongly opposed Solano’s proposals, saying they would be costly and would disrupt the department’s data system.
The Senate version basically expands on the plan for replacing the CSAPs that’s already contained in the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids. It stresses that schools need to use formative and interim tests in addition to the annual “summative” tests. The bill sets July 1, 2013, deadline for ending the current CSAP system but gives the State Board of Education flexiblilty in meeting the testing-adoption deadline originally contained in CAP4K.
Tuition and flexibility bill passes easily
The House voted 56-8 for final pasage of Senate Bill 10-003, the bill that creates a five-year program under which state colleges and universities can raise tuition up to 9 percent a year and apply to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for larger hikes.
The bill also gives colleges greater control over allocation of state financial aid and exemption from some state financial and purchasing rules. (See this story for details on the bill’s provisions.)
There are some minor House-Senate differences that need to be resolved, but this bill is basically done. The bill passed the House 34-1.
Romer loses two
Senate Bill 10-210, the recently introduced bill that would have allowed a pilot rewards-for-reading program funded by the Read-to-Achieve program, failed on a 5-8 vote Monday in the House Education Committee. The panel then postponed it indefinitely.
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 5-0 to lay over Senate Concurrent Resolution 10-004 – until July 4, long after the legislative session ends. This was the proposed keno-for-colleges constitutional amendment.
Both were pushed by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver. Romer also unsuccessfully proposed Senate Bill 10-215, a different, non-constitutional proposal to expand gambling to fund college scholarships. That was killed in Senate Ed on May 5.
Romer argued that the 2010 legislature needed to do something about looming higher ed financial shortfalls in the 2011-12 school year, ahead of the seating of a new governor and legislature in January 2011.
For the record
Here’s a rundown of what lawmakers did Monday on other education-related measures:
House Bill 10-1274 – Notification of schools when students return from residential treatment, 35-0 final Senate passage.
House Bill 10-1131 – Creation of Kids Outdoors grant program, passed Senate 24-11
Senate Bill 10-064 – Simplification of college stipend application, Senate preliminary approval
Senate Bill 10-202 – Creation of CollegeInvest job-training accounts and allowing tax deductable employer matches – House preliminary approval
Senate Bill 10-161 – Charter school collaboratives, House preliminary approval