Capitol Report: Expect red-shirted teachers on the Capitol steps

It's happening.

Denver teachers will be on strike Monday for the first time in 25 years, and the issues in play have implications for education policy beyond just one school district.

ProComp, the district’s complex teacher pay system, was once a national model, but teachers' disenchantment with bonuses and incentives brought them to a breaking point. Mix in a national wave of teacher activism and pent-up frustration among opponents of Denver school reforms, and you have a perfect storm.

Among the featured speakers when teachers rally at the Capitol Monday afternoon will be Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association.

Meanwhile, the legislative process continues apace. We're excited to welcome a new-to-us — but maybe not new-to-you — name to our pages. Sandra Fish, a data journalist who has covered politics in Iowa, Florida and Colorado, will be contributing to our legislative coverage. Fish also covered the Orange County School District for the Orlando Sentinel and taught journalism at University of Colorado for eight years. Her stories will start appearing this week.

— Erica Meltzer, bureau chief

LINES DRAWN Denver teachers will strike on Monday after school district and union leaders failed to reach an agreement in a last-ditch bargaining session Saturday. This will be the first teacher strike in 25 years in Colorado’s largest district, and likely the first in the country to turn on the issue of incentive pay for educators. Chalkbeat

NON-INTERVENTION The stage for this strike was set by Gov. Jared Polis’ decision Wednesday to not intervene in a pay dispute between the Denver school district and the teachers union. Polis urged the two sides to seize an “11th-hour opportunity” to reach a deal. That didn’t happen, of course. If the strike drags on, he could still try to broker an agreement. Chalkbeat

MERIT PAY How did we get here? ProComp — “professional compensation” — was supposed to recognize and reward good teachers. It was hailed around the nation as a model for getting districts away from traditional pay structures that prize longevity more than results, and, remarkably, it had the support of Denver’s teachers union. But educators eventually grew disenchanted. Chalkbeat

RESEARCH SAYS Colorado lawmakers continue to wonder about the right interventions to help struggling schools — and when it might be time to close a school. A growing body of research now provides clearer answers to how students fare after a school closure. Many of them don’t end up in better schools and do worse academically than their peers whose schools were not closed. Chalkbeat

PITCH IN Last year’s PERA fix included an automatic adjustment mechanism if market conditions change and the state pension system is no longer on track to reduce its unfunded liability. Well, it’s working. School districts, teachers, state employees, and retirees could face increased contributions and reduced benefits as soon as summer 2020. Denver Post

ALL THE NEWS Backers of a media literacy bill making its way through the Colorado House of Representatives say that the future of our democracy depends on teaching students how to distinguish real news from fakery and fact from opinion. Colorado Politics

OUT OF POCKET Democrats in the state Senate killed a Republican-sponsored bill that would have let teachers deduct a portion of what they spend on classroom supplies from their state income taxes. Republicans think the majority party is playing politics. Democrats say they were upholding procedural rules. CBS 4

SPECIAL INTERESTS Education advocates of various stripes were among the biggest spenders on lobbying at the Colorado State Capitol last year. Denver Post

What to expect next

Follow education-related bills from start to finish with our 2019 Bill Tracker here.


House, second reading

  • HB19-1094 — Internet Link To Basic Life Skills Education Courses


Senate, second reading

  • SB19-063 — Infant And Family Child Care Action Plan
  • HB19-1036 — Annual Stipends For Certified School Professionals
  • SB19-102 — Innovation School Operating As A Community School

House Education, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1152 — State Student Advisory Council Member Eligibility
  • HB19-1116 — Hunter Education Courses In Public Schools
  • HB19-1121 — Fifth-year High School & ASCENT Program Students
  • HB19-1137 — Expand Teacher Cadet Program Include Early Childhood Education


House and Senate Education, Old State Library, 7:30 a.m.

  • Presentation by students attending Study Colorado Advocacy Day at the Capitol
  • Panel on Career and Technical Education

House Transportation & Local Government, HCR 0112, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1087 — Local Public Meeting Notices Posted On Website

Senate Education, SCR 352, upon adjournment

  • Sunset Review for Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board
  • Sunset Review for State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education
  • HB19-1008 — Including Career and Technical Education in Building Excellent Schools Today Program


House Education, HCR 0107, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1017 — Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade Social And Emotional Health Act
  • HB19-1139 — American Civics Education
  • HB19-1123 — Income Tax Deduction For 529 Account K-12 Expenses
  • SB19-009 — Financial Incentives For Rural Educators

House State, Veterans and Military Affairs, LSB A, 1:30 p.m.

  • HB19-1151 — Special Education Opportunity Scholarships