The Senate voted 33-2 early Friday evening to pass its main testing bill, followed a few hours later by a 52-12 House vote to pass its assessment proposal.

Key elements of Senate Bill 15-257 include reduction of high school testing to one set of exams, and flexibility for districts to use their own tests. (See this story for details.)

The House plan, House Bill 15-1323, would allow more high school testing and less district flexibility. (See this story for details.)

The two chambers have three days to come to a compromise; the legislature has to adjourn next Wednesday.

The Senate took its final vote without discussion. House members had a bit of debate before casting their votes.

“We have a commitment that we are going to continue to work on the two bills to reach compromise,” Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, told her colleagues.

No compromise plan has yet been reached, according to statehouse sources. The major differences between the houses are over 9th grade testing and district flexibility in assessments.

In other developments Friday, legislation on opting out of tests and on student data privacy, two top priorities for some legislators and parent groups this year, appear to be dead.

A measure that sought to codify parent rights to opt of testing and to protect districts and teachers from the impact of low test participation was killed by the House Education Committee on a 6-5 bipartisan vote. Senate Bill 15-223 was heavily lobbied, with education reform groups pushing to kill the bill and the Colorado Education Association working to support it.

The last surviving data privacy measure, Senate 15-173, isn’t technically dead, but it’s close to it.

The Senate voted 22-13 to reject House amendments to the measure. If the House doesn’t give up its changes, which is unlikely, the bill will die. The House amendments were generally favorable to technology companies, and some parent activists lobbied the Senate not to accept them.

House Education provides some late-session drama

The opt-out bill passed the Senate 28-7 after amendments tightened the measure considerably (see story). But it languished in the House for most of April as lobbyists pushed and pulled members on the issue.

Proponents argued that it was needed to protect districts from state sanctions for low test participation rates. Opponents maintained the bill would derail the state district and school accountability system and put federal funding for poor students at risk.

The committee, meeting between House floor sessions on a hectic day, made several amendments to the bill and rehashed familiar arguments.

In closing statements before the vote, members aired their struggles with the bill. Here’s a sample:

  • “I’ve been lobbied more on this bill than any other bill this session,” said Rep. JoAnn Windholz, R-Brighton. “There is just a lot of uncertainty” about its impact. She voted no.
  • “This has been a really tough bill for me,” said Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs. “We’ve gotten a lot of lobbying on this from a lot of people.” He voted yes.
  • “I’ve gone back and forth on this bill more times than I can count,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. He voted yes.
  • “This is the most stressful bill I’ve dealt with this session, but it is also the most bizarre,” said Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida. He said he started out supporting the bill but decided to vote no.

Voting for the bill were Lee, Moreno and Reps. Justin Everett, R-Littleton; Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. Those voting in the majority to kill the bill were Wilson, Windholz and Reps. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora; Alex Garnett, D-Denver; Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson.

No window for compromise on data privacy

The prime sponsor of the data privacy bill, Republican Sen. Chris Holbert of Parker, told his colleagues on the floor that “I can’t agree to” the SB 15-173 amendments added in the House.

“I believe there is not a reason to call a conference committee because the bill has just gone in two different directions,” Holbert said.

He said it’s better for the bill to die than to make parent groups mad by passing the House version or to antagonize the technology industry by passing the Senate version.

All the no votes on the motion to reject House amendments were Democrats.

In other action

Other education-related bills of interest were on the move Friday, including:

School finance – The Senate accepted House amendments and voted 35-0 to repass Senate Bill 15-267, the 2015-16 school finance act. The bill increases K-12 funding to account for inflation and population growth, reduces the state’s $860 million funding shortfall by $25 million and provides $5 million to be distributed to districts based on how many at-risk students they have. (Background here and see district-by-district spreadsheet here)

Claire Davis Act – The House voted 43-21 for Senate Bill 15-213, the measure that would make school districts liable for some violent incidents. Given that House amendments were minor, the Senate isn’t expected to put up a fight, so this one is close to being done. (Background here)

Bonds for PERA – Tbe proposal to shore up the Public Employees’ Retirement Association passed the House 45-19. Prospects in the Senate may be cloudier for House Bill 15-1388. (Background here.)

Pay for success – The Senate gave preliminary approval to House Bill 15-1317. The bill would allow the state to create “pay for success” programs through which foundations and investors could fund social services such as early childhood programs and be repaid later from the savings in other programs such as special education.

More money for K-12 – The House gave preliminary approval to House Bill 15-1389, the measure that would reclassify revenue received from the state’s hospital provider fee so that it doesn’t count against the state’s annual revenue limit. The potential effect of the bill would be to free up other state funds for K-12, highways, higher education and other programs.

Other money for K-12 – As expected, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to kill House Bill 15-1346, a measure that would have closed offshore tax loopholes for Colorado companies and devoted the revenue raised to education. The Colorado Education Association backed this bill.

New ways to measure students – Senate State Affairs did vote 3-2 to pass House Bill 15-1324. The measure would create a grant program to help districts implement student learning objectives – tailored classroom ways to measure student progress. This bill is backed by CEA as a way to provide an additional method for evaluating teachers.