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K-12 Legislative Session Look Opens New Chalkbeat Colorado News Site

Well, that’s new. You get used to the name, and to the appearance, of a website you visit almost on a daily basis. Then one day, a Tuesday early in January, it changes. Ed News Colorado as we knew it is no more, but now is part of a four-state online education news service. From now on, I turn to Chalkbeat Colorado as a vital source to find out what’s going on in schools, districts, and of course, at the State Capitol.

Oh yes, the Capitol. Tomorrow after all is the beginning of another legislative session, a time for parents and taxpayers to hold their breath and, if need be, get ready to do battle. A good place to start is reading the Legislative Preview 2014 by Ed News Chalkbeat Colorado’s Todd Engdahl.

My big takeaway? Most of the momentum surrounding state-level education reform has stalled out, and a lot of local districts aren’t enthused about trying anything more right now. There isn’t much reason to expect major changes like those made in recent years to academic standards, accreditation systems, or educator evaluations — not to mention early literacy programs or other similar initiatives. For the second straight year, a big buildup toward upgrading teacher licensure to mesh with the other reforms has quieted into a backseat priority.

The spanking (ouch!) that Amendment 66 received from Colorado voters a couple months ago has something to do with the reluctance to push any grand initiatives, as well as other political issues related to it being a big election year. But I am pleased to see there is interest from both sides of the aisle in some of the Senate Bill pieces that were tied to the statewide tax hike initiative–particularly improved financial transparency and a new student count system.

Meanwhile, the article highlights a number of bills on education-related topics that may emerge that little Eddie is sure to be watching:

  • English Language Learner programs
  • Privacy protections for student data
  • BEST school construction program
  • Online school regulations

What other ideas are out there? One key item omitted from the Chalkbeat (see, I got it right!) story that has been heard elsewhere is a possible union-backed bill to undo parts of the educator effectiveness reforms. Is it coming? Maybe not, but I found the silence strange.

Buckle up, friends. This session may not be as intense as some in the recent past, when it comes to education issues. But that just might make it easier for me to watch carefully and to alert parents and other citizens about important threats and opportunities. Stay tuned.