Brand-new Democratic senators Michael Johnston and Pat Steadman will join the Senate Education Committee for the 2010 session, and Vice Chair Chris Romer is leaving the panel to be vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. All represent Denver districts.

StockCapitolSized102809Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, will be vice chair. She was elected to the Senate in 2008. Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, will continue as chair. He was reelected last year.

Johnston and Steadman were appointed by party committees to fill seats vacated after the 2009 session ended.

Johnston, who’s been director of the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts, replaced Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, who resigned last spring to take a job with the U.S. Department of Education. Groff, known for his support of charter schools and education reforms, sometimes teamed with Romer and committee Republicans on bills, including an unsuccessful effort last spring to earmark more money for at-risk students.

Well regarded in education reform circles, Johnston served on the Interim Committee on School Finance and is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind, which met in Denver Wednesday.

Steadman was appointed to replace Sen. Jennifer Viega, D-Denver. A lobbyist since 1995, Steadman was with the firm Mendez Steadman and Associates. It has represented a wide variety of clients, from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood to the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police plus a wide variety of human services advocacy groups. The firm also has represented the Coalition for a Thorough and Uniform Colorado Public Education system, a group of non-metro larger school districts.

Bacon is a veteran legislator and former teacher and school board member. Hudak is a former State Board of Education member. The other Democrat continuing on the committee is Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, a longtime education advocate who also will chair the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee next year.

Romer said that while “I’m very disappointed I will no longer be on the education committee,” he volunteered for the position on appropriations so that he could work on budget issues with Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, and Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo. Tapia is chair of appropriations and serves on the Joint Budget Committee, while Keller will be JBC vice chair and serves on appropriations.

Budget issues are expected to dominate the 2010 session, given the state’s depleted revenues, and Romer said his new assignment will put him in a position to look out for the budget interests of K-12 education. State support for schools is widely expected to take a cut in the 2010-11 budget year; the arguments will be over how much.

Romer has been a leading proponent of ending some state tax exemptions and deductions as of way of easing state budget cuts, and he said he expects to work on those issues in his new role.

Noting that both Keller and Tapia are term limited after the 2010 session, Romer said he’d be “willing to serve on the JBC” starting in 2011. Romer is up for reelection in 2010 from a safely Democratic seat.

Republicans on the Senate Education Committee last session were Nancy Spence of Centennial, Keith King of Colorado Springs and Mark Scheffel of Parker.

Sen. Abel Tapia’s home town was corrected on Oct. 30.