As we come to the final weeks of the 2021 Colorado legislative session, here are the top five things you should know:
1.) Governor Polis and the Legislature make a big stimulus announcement.
This week Governor Polis and legislative leaders announced more details about how the state will spend American Rescue Act stimulus funds. The $3.8 billion proposal in state funding will be divided as follows: one-third to help restore and balance Colorado’s budget, one-third towards workforce development, housing, and mental health, and one-third creating jobs in transportation, public lands, and agriculture. A legislative framework will be introduced soon that will establish funding priorities and a process to spend out the funds.
According to a report released at the press conference, the proposal will “spend approximately $100 million to help students reconnect with their postsecondary options, support innovation in workforce development, and increase funding for existing effective programs that help to connect K-12, higher education, and industry in the 2021 session.” Furthermore, “$100 million will be set aside for an interim process to make recommendations to the General Assembly for the 2022 session that invests in helping individuals acquire skills needed for higher wage jobs in the economy and helps the higher education system adapt to better meet the needs of students wherever and however they are learning and upskilling.”
Stay tuned for our announcements of upcoming opportunities to provide feedback and ideas for how this funding can be leveraged for the future Colorado workforce.
2.) Legislation reimagining the high school experience advances.
Led by Senator James Coleman (D), the Successful High School Transitions bill (SB21-106) that seeks to make high school more meaningful for students is about to clear its final hurdle. The bill passed the House on second reading and is expected to pass on third reading tomorrow. Many thanks to Dave Eddy at Boeing and Skyler McKinlay at AAA for testifying during this process. In addition, the bill has received over thirty endorsements from business and education organizations, and continues to receive public support through various media outlets including: Colorado Sun and Colorado Politics.
3.) Business is a leading voice expressing support for expanding preschool.
Adeeb Khan, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Delta Dental of Colorado and Executive Director of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, testified in support of HB21-1304: Early Childhood Systems. He expressed business support for more coordinated and aligned infrastructure through a new state agency and a single-state preschool program. The goal is to alleviate the administrative burdens on parents and teachers and to create more innovative and responsive government systems to serve Colorado’s kids, as well as their parents and teachers. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate and will then be sent back to the House for concurrence with new amendments added.
4.) Opposing policies that limit high quality school options for students.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Jen Bacon (D) and Senator Tammy Story (D), the Rebuttable Presumption In Charter School Appeals, would limit the number of charter school options available to students. It would make it extremely difficult for a charter school to win an appeal where a school district has denied their application. If we want to maximize the number of high performing schools, we need to ensure a robust ecosystem of school options and one that is fair and balanced, and that ensures a strong appeals process with the State Board of Education. Colorado Succeeds will be testifying in opposition this week in the House.
5.) Legislation addressing COVID learning recovery needs advances.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Kerry Tipper (D) (HB21-1234), and supported by Colorado Succeeds, to provide more high impact tutoring to Colorado students who need it the most has advanced through the House and is now moving in the Senate. COVID-19 has magnified the urgency of addressing gaps in educational opportunity. Some of the biggest studies conducted nationally, including a McKinsey and Company study, found that students, on average, could be behind by up to nine months in math, due to COVID learning loss. For students of color, it increased to 12 months. Numerous school districts are reporting increases in the number of failing grades. Research indicates that high dosage tutoring can double or triple the amount of math high school students learn each year, increase student grades, and reduce math and non-math course failures. Strong evidence-based practices should be encouraged and heavily invested in.