A bill that would ease school zero-tolerance discipline policies passed the Senate 32-3 this morning, more than four months after it was introduced.
Sponsors and many other lawmakers have hailed the bill as one of the most important education proposals of 2012, but there’s been little disagreement or policy debate over the central premise of reducing zero-tolerance offenses.
An early version of the bill was proposed last year by a study panel named the Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline. (Get information about the task force’s work here.) But the bill has been mired in months and months of negotiations among a wide variety of education, law enforcement and advocacy groups.
At issue were the bill’s proposed requirements for gathering and reporting of data about student discipline and arrests, and about training of police officers who work at schools. Bill proponents believe data gathering is needed to ensure schools make reforms in discipline policies.
The bill’s Senate Democratic sponsors, Linda Newell of Littleton and Evie Hudak of Westminster, asserted during floor debate Thursday afternoon that all those disagreements finally are settled.
“We have finally got to where virtually everybody agrees with this bill,” Newell said.
“Virtually everybody” didn’t include Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, a dogged critic of the bill’s reporting requirements since it was being discussed by the task force. “This is a horrendous unfunded mandate,” he argued Thursday.
King offered two amendments, one to basically strip reporting and data requirements from the measure and another to ease reporting requirements on police departments. Both failed.
He returned to the microphone this morning to make a last plea for a no vote. He and GOP Sens. Bill Cadman and Kent Lambert, also of Colorado Springs were the only no votes.
Several other Republicans went to the microphone to urge passage, saying it’s time to end rigid no-tolerance policies and defending some level of data reporting.
Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, even complimented the long process of negotiations. She said she originally opposed the bill but that “It keeps getting better” with every version.
The Legislative Legal Services Committee unanimously approved the regulations for appeals by teachers with two consecutive ratings as ineffective or partially effective. The rules were issued by the State Board of Education earlier this month (see this story for details).
Legislative legal staff questioned whether one part of the rules was supported by Senate Bill 10-191, the educator effectiveness law. That part allows a superintendent to give a “no score” to a teacher who wins an appeal. But Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the author of SB 10-191, said he thought that part of the rules was fine, and the committee took him at his word. (Read the staff analysis here.)
Approval of the rule will be included in the omnibus annual rules review bill, which covers all rules issued by state agencies in the last year. The main body of SB 12-191 rules was approved by the legislature in a separate bill earlier in the session.
Three education bills of note moved on Thursday. Here’s the rundown:
House Bill 12-1155, a measure to reform remediation policies at state colleges and make them more flexible, passed the House 61-0.
Senate Bill 12-121 will create new matching funds requirements for charter schools seeking Building Excellent Schools Today funding and also create a loan program charters could use for their matches. The measure, a priority for charter schools interests, passed the House 61-0.
House Bill 12-1324 will change Colorado Mesa University from a “moderately selective” to a “selective” admissions institution and passed the Senate 35-0.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.