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Looming Legislative Session Evokes More Heartburn than Hope for K-12 Issues

Run for cover, and hold onto your wallets! Tomorrow marks the beginning of the first session of the 69th Colorado General Assembly. At first, I thought about just re-posting last year’s pre-session warning. Yet while there may be some similarities between 2012 and 2013, it would end up being a lazy thing to do, and less than accurate to boot.

At the risk of being repetitive, though, I first will point readers to the legislative preview by Ed News Colorado’s Todd Engdahl. He notes that:

The question of school finance is expected to overshadow all other education issues. Democratic Sens. Mike Johnston of Denver and Rollie Heath of Boulder are crafting a plan that would significantly overhaul the school funding formula – contingent on subsequent voter approval of new revenues for schools.

A big looming question then is just how significant the proposed school finance changes will be. If they’re not pushing toward real student-centered backpack funding — as Senator Johnston and others discussed last month at a packed Capitol event — then selling voters on a tax hike will become that much more difficult. While the statehouse shouldn’t be as consumed with K-12 education issues last year, Engdahl does point out some you can expect to see on the docket, some of which could be good:

  • Updating teacher licensure to mesh with changes to evaluation and tenure
  • Revisiting earlier attempts to expand educational options through the “parent trigger” or the tax code
  • Reining in the BEST school construction grant program
  • Allowing teachers greater flexibility regarding professional or union membership

And then there are other proposals being floated around that give me the 5-year-old equivalent of heartburn:

  • Creating union bargaining requirements for school districts
  • Attempting to further delay implementation of evaluation reforms
  • Modifying accountability systems for struggling schools
  • Reconfiguring state bureaucratic oversight of early childhood education
  • Expanding government-delivered school breakfast programs
  • Adding regulations to full-time online schools

Finally, some ideas mentioned in Engdahl’s piece have me truly reserving judgment at this point:

  • Enhancing school security in light of recent tragic events
  • Rethinking aspects of the state assessment system
  • Confronting problems with student truancy
  • Having “some serious conversations about sex ed” (don’t ask me)

The next 13 weeks could prove to be a genuinely trying time, both for students working through the heart of a challenging school year and for all of us enduring potential attacks from the State Capitol. Buckle up for a bumpy ride!