Each week of the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly we’ll bring you the latest news and analysis of legislation impacting the early development, health and education of Colorado kids. Click here for a full list of the legislation we’re tracking. Here are some highlights from this week:
HB 17-1186 (Pettersen & Landgraf/Coram) Health Coverage Prescription Contraceptives Supply
The bill requires health benefit plans that provide contraception coverage to reimburse providers for initially dispensing a three-month supply of prescription contraceptives and subsequently for dispensing a 12-month supply of the same prescription contraceptive to the insured person. We are thrilled that this bill passed with bipartisan support and now awaits the governor’s signature. Read more here.
SB17-103 (Merrifield) Early Learning Strategies in Education Accountability
The bill would enable a focus on early learning and development and K-3rd grade strategies as part of the state’s approach to turning around low-performing elementary schools. The bill passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support and will be heard in the House next week. Read more about our support of the bill and its next steps here.
HB17-1340 (Lundeen & Garnett) Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance
The bill would create an interim legislative committee to study school finance – both the funding formula and sources of revenue – and make recommendations for changes to K-12 education funding in Colorado. Read more about our testimony in support of the bill and its next steps here.
HB17-1332 (Bridges & Wilson/Fenberg & Smallwood) Access to Alternative Teacher Licensure for Early Childhood Educators
The bill would open up pathways to an alternative teacher license for community-based preschool and child care educators. It passed its first committee on Wednesday with strong bipartisan support and now heads to the full House. Read more about our support of the bill and its next steps here.
Summary: The bill allows licensed physicians, physician assistants, or advanced practice nurses or a parents, guardians, or students 18 years of age or older to sign an immunization exemption letter without the use of the required specified form and with no expectations for what is included in the letter.
Position: The Children’s Campaign opposes this bill as we are concerned about the potential that, in the event of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases, we will lack the necessary public health information to notify communities, schools, and child care settings of their vulnerability. The current form allows some clarity over which communities have “herd immunity” (with enough children vaccinated to resist an outbreak) and which ones do not. Moving away from a common form or lacking detail in the associated exemption letters will put children, and particularly medically fragile ones, at-risk in the event of an outbreak without the ability to notify those communities of their risk.
Current Status: The bill died in the Senate during second reading
Summary: This bill would enable a focus on early learning and development and K-3rd grade strategies as part of the state’s approach to turning around low-performing schools. For schools that serve children in kindergarten through third grade, this bill, as amended, expands turnaround approaches to include the ability to incorporate investing in research-based strategies that promote a comprehensive Preschool through 3rd grade, early years support strategy to turnaround an elementary school. The bill also specifies that technical assistance provided to low-performing schools may include consultation concerning strategies that address the quality and availability of early childhood education opportunities.
Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this proposal. One of our highest leverage and most evidence-based approaches to supporting young children’s academic achievement is high-quality early learning experiences from the early years through 8 years old. Development during the preschool through third-grade years sets the tone for children’s later educational and lifelong success. If we are serious about improving child outcomes and turning around schools with low performance, we must focus on children’s experiences Pre-K through 8 years old and take a comprehensive P-3 approach to school turnaround.
Current Status: The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 19-14 and now heads to the House Education Committee where it is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, April 26 upon adjournment in Room 112
Summary: This bill would allow medical providers who are not enrolled in the Medicaid program to charge Medicaid clients for services that would otherwise be paid for by Medicaid.
Position: The Children’s Campaign opposes this bill due to its potential impact on access to affordable health care, if providers decide to opt out of the Medicaid program and instead charge Medicaid enrollees high prices for their services. It could also have significant financial repercussions for families who rely on Medicaid for their insurance coverage. One of the largest benefits of Medicaid coverage is the protection it provides against catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs, the risk of having a bill sent to collections, or the need to borrow money to cover a medical bill. This proposal could create financial strain for Medicaid clients if they face high charges for services that should be covered by Medicaid. And we know that financial hardship and the stress that it creates for families is bad for kids’ healthy development across all domains.
Current Status: The bill died in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on a 5-3 vote
Summary: This bill creates a legislative interim committee to study the current school finance structure and to make recommendations for K-12 education funding in Colorado. The bill specifies the number of members that must serve on the committee and how often they are to meet during the 2017 and 2018 legislative interims. The committee may introduce up to five bills during each of the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions.
Position: The Colorado Children’s Campaign supports the bill. Colorado’s School Finance Act has not undergone a comprehensive revision in more than 20 years, though much has changed in that time, including classroom models, theories related to best practices in education funding, and what is expected of students regarding the learning and preparation necessary to be successful in today’s economy. The bill requires a reexamination of the current school finance formula based on district and student attributes as well as the sources of revenue for the system. Our system is inherently inequitable and we are encouraged by conversations at the Capitol to address both equity and adequacy in school finance.
Current Status: The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously and now heads to House Appropriations Committee. Vice President of Education Initiatives Leslie Colwell testified in support. Read her testimony here
Summary: The bill would open up pathways to an alternative teacher license for community-based preschool and child care educators.
Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill as a way to increase the capacity and quality of the early childhood workforce in all early childhood settings in Colorado. Currently, a participant in an alternative teacher licensure program cannot obtain an alternative license by working in a community-based child care or preschool facility. Expanding the alternative teacher licensure program to include licensed community-based early childhood settings increases the likelihood that teachers will choose or remain in these settings while they work toward their alternative license and can open up more pathways to career options for these early childhood educators.
Current Status: Passed the House Education Committee on a vote of 12-1 and passed the House on 2nd reading, and now awaits a vote on 3rd reading in the House
Summary: This bill lowers the age at which a minor can seek and obtain outpatient psychotherapy services from a licensed mental health professional.
Position: The Children’s Campaign supports this bill as a way to help ensure that kids have access to the mental health supports they need to stay healthy. Mental health challenges can affect every aspect of a child’s life, causing difficulties at school, with friends, and at home. In addition, suicide is a tragic problem among children and adolescents in Colorado and across the country. In 2010, suicide was the second leading cause of death for U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17. Colorado has historically had a high teen suicide rate relative to the rest of the country. In 2014, only 13 other states had higher teen suicide rates than Colorado.
Current Status: The bill passed the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee on a vote of 7-6 and now heads to the House floor for debate
Summary: The bill creates a steering committee to lead the statewide effort in establishing a vision for education in the state and creating a plan to achieve the vision. Additionally, the bill creates an executive advisory board with representatives from the department of education and higher education, a member of the early childhood leadership commission, and a representative from the governor’s office.
Position: The Colorado Children’s Campaign supports the bill. The vision sets clear expectations for committee and board membership, and outlines expectations in producing a communications plan, a vision, and a strategic plan for the state
Current Status: The bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 53-11 and now heads to the Senate
Summary: This bill would create the Discipline Strategies Pilot Program to provide funds to school districts for professional development for educators in the use of evidence-based, culturally responsive disciplinary training and developmentally appropriate responses to the behavioral issues of young children in preschool through 3rd grade. The pilot program will be funded with gifts, grants and donations.
Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill, which would provide supports to educators on developmentally appropriate strategies for young children’s behavior in the classroom so that all children can reach their full potential.
Current Status: Awaiting action by the Senate Education Committee
Summary: A high quality, nurturing environment in the early school years unlocks the potential of all of our children to learn about themselves and the world. Currently, too few children are on track for success by the end of third grade. There are many reasons for this, but one is that exclusionary school discipline based on infractions often unrelated to safety push thousands of children out of the building at a time when school can have the greatest impact. This bill would update statute to offer better guidance to administrators regarding out-of-school suspensions & expulsions for young children. For children in Colorado Preschool Program and Preschool Special Education classrooms (typically 3- & 4-year olds) and children in grades Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd, the bill ensures that out-of-school suspensions for young children address ongoing safety concerns and are developmentally appropriate. The bill does not affect statute governing in-school suspensions or classroom removals. The bill also reinforces the partnership between parents and schools in determining if a child has an unidentified disability when safety or behavioral issues arise and clarifies that eligibility regarding prevention, early intervention, and support services for expelled and at-risk students includes the early elementary grades.
Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill. School success by end of third grade is a powerful predictor of later academic and life outcomes, including graduation. Currently, too few children, especially Black, Latino, Native American, and children with disabilities, are on track for success by the end of third grade. There are many reasons for this, but one is that exclusionary school discipline based on infractions often unrelated to safety push thousands of children, disproportionately boys, Black children, Latino boys, and children with disabilities, out of the building at a time when school can have the greatest impact. We know that investments in early development pay huge dividends in preventing and closing opportunity gaps. Yet research shows that practices like out-of-school suspension and expulsion are currently widening the education equity gap. In the early years of rapid brain development, we need thoughtful discipline policies that help children unlock their potential. Unfortunately, in current law lacks appropriate developmental reasons for why young children should be removed from school. By focusing on alternatives to suspension and expulsion for non-threatening behavior for very young children, we have an opportunity to address the root causes of a child’s actions. This is a missed opportunity when a young child is sent out of the school building.
Current Status: The bill died in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on a party line 3-2 vote. See more in this week’s KidsFlash for a statement on next steps by the advocates for this bill.