Federal

Colorado Moves Ahead on Ambitious K-12 Package

By Erik W. Robelen — May 20, 2008 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Measures approved by Colorado lawmakers with strong backing from Gov. Bill Ritter hold potentially big implications for the state’s K-12 education system, including a move to revamp state standards and tests, and a bill allowing schools to seek more autonomy from certain state rules—and from collective-bargaining pacts.

“These bills represent some of the most important work the legislature did this session,” Gov. Ritter, a Democrat, said at a May 14 ceremony where he signed into law four bills passed in the just-concluded session, including one of his top priorities, the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids. That plan aims to create a seamless preschool-to-college educational system.

Mr. Ritter, who also put his signature on a budget boosting K-12 education funding by about 10 percent, was expected to sign all the education bills by the end of May.

The ambitious action on education in Colorado comes as many states are grappling with budget deficits that have forced K-12 spending cuts and made it difficult to contemplate new programs for schools. Although revenue forecasts have come down recently in Colorado, the state is not in a deficit.

Total state spending on K-12 education is expected to increase to $3.78 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1, up by $337 million from the previous fiscal year, according to an aide to the state legislature’s joint budget committee. The total state budget for fiscal 2009 will be about $18 billion.

The new budget will make full-day kindergarten available to 7,000 more children this fall, including providing $35 million for capital construction costs to help districts make room for more kindergarten students. It also is expected to eliminate an estimated 3,800-child waiting list for the Colorado Preschool Program, which serves 3- and 4-year-olds considered to be at-risk of developing academic problems.

The budget will provide $5 million for a new program providing guidance counselors to schools. And it will offer a $1 million incentive fund to help districts and charter schools devise alternative teacher-compensation plans.

‘The Centerpiece Bill’

The Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids will set in motion a multi-year process to update state content standards and create new ones for early childhood education, develop new or realigned assessments, and establish definitions of school readiness, as well as readiness for postsecondary education and the workforce.

It also calls for creating standards for early-childhood education, and for making changes to college-entrance requirements. The effort was sparked in part by concerns about the state’s high school dropout rate and low rate of college completion. (“Colo. Governor Pushing New K-12 Standards, Tests,” April 2, 2008.)

“This was the centerpiece bill,” said Frank B. Waterous, a senior policy analyst at the Bell Policy Center, a Denver think tank. “We’re certainly supportive of the direction this is going.”

He said the measure was built on ideas devised by the state’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council, a broad-based advisory board formed by Gov. Ritter.

Benjamin T. DeGrow, an education policy analyst at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colo., said he supports the idea of making the state’s standards more rigorous, but suggests the new law is vague about what’s expected.

“It’s kind of too early to tell what the fallout is going to be,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of definition in the law itself.”

Jeanne L. Beyer, a spokeswoman for the 38,000-member Colorado Education Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association, said the state union is concerned that no money was included to help districts rewrite and realign their curricula to meet new state standards.

“While an overhaul of academic standards is needed, we’re very concerned about the cost implications for school districts,” she said.

Money for Construction

Meanwhile, another new measure is expected to generate about $500 million in coming years for capital construction projects for school districts. It will use existing revenues to finance lease-purchase agreements to repair old schools and build new ones. It is aimed at districts lacking adequate resources to finance their own construction plans, especially in poor, rural areas. The state’s charter schools will be eligible to participate.

Lawmakers also approved a plan allowing one or more public schools to apply to their local school board to become an “innovation school,” which would give them greater freedom to operate.

The bill would allow for “innovations” in school staffing, recruitment, and compensation, as well as in curricula and testing, class scheduling, use of financial resources, and other matters, with waivers from certain state rules and regulations. A school could also seek exemptions from rules in the district’s collective-bargaining agreement, though to move forward the school’s plan would need to be approved by at least 60 percent of its faculty.

“Schools and districts are real enthused about this bill, and many of them will take advantage of it,” predicted Scott A. Groginsky, the director of education initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, a Denver-based advocacy group, which supported the measure.

Ms. Beyer, from the teachers’ union, said the group was concerned about an earlier version of the measure, but was pleased about changes made to ensure that teachers have a role in approving any waivers from collective-bargaining pacts.

“We were able to get the bill fixed,” she said. “It gave us a little heartburn initially.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 21, 2008 edition of Education Week as Colorado Moves Ahead on Ambitious K-12 Package

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Close the Gender Gap: Getting Girls Excited about STEM
Join female STEM leaders as they discuss the importance of early cheerleaders, real life role models, and female networks of support.
Content provided by Logitech
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Q&A Boosting 'Pathetically Low' Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
The progressive senator from Vermont spoke with Education Week as he prepares to chair the Senate's education committee.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, in late January.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal What’s Behind the Push for a $60K Base Teacher Salary
When reintroduced in Congress, a bill to raise teacher salaries will include money to account for regional cost differences.
5 min read
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Jason Redmond/AP
Federal Teachers Shouldn't Have to Drive Ubers on the Side, Education Secretary Says
In a speech on priorities for the year, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said teachers should be paid competitive salaries.
5 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Federal A Chaotic Start to a New Congress: What Educators Need to Know
A new slate of lawmakers will have the chance to influence federal education policy in the 118th Congress.
4 min read
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the House floor after the first vote for House Speaker when he did not receive enough votes to be elected during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023, in Washington.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3 following the first round of voting for House Speaker. McCarthy fell short of enough votes to be elected speaker in three rounds of voting on opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol.
Andrew Harnik/AP