2014 Legislative Session

Date Posted: January 7, 2014

Intro

As the leading voice for kids at the State Capitol and in communities throughout Colorado, we understand the importance of staying well informed. In preparation for the 2014 legislative session, we prepared a list of priorities. We were pleased to see successes in our three highest priority areas.

2014 Priorities

Child Health Priorities

  • Protecting health in schools and child care settings by strengthening the process for opting out of vaccinations. Colorado requires children enrolled in licensed child care and public schools to be vaccinated against harmful diseases to protect the health of both individual children and the whole community. Colorado allows parents to exempt their children from this requirement for medical, religious and personal belief reasons. Strengthening the Personal Belief Exemption to ensure parents have the information they need to make well-informed choices about vaccinating their children will help ensure that all children have access to safe places to learn and grow.
  • Ensuring children have dental coverage by aligning marketplace requirements. We will seek legislation to give the Colorado Insurance Commissioner the authority to fix a market inequity and help ensure all Colorado children get the dental coverage they need, regardless of how their parents buy that health coverage.

K-12 Education Priorities

  • Protecting and implementing landmark school improvement legislation passed in the past five years. Since 2008, Colorado has led the nation in advancing innovative education policy while experiencing the Great Recession and slow economic recovery. We cannot postpone improving our education system and better supporting students by delaying implementation of these policies. We will protect and continue to support the Colorado Academic Standards and Assessments, the Great Teachers and Leaders Act, our state’s Accountability Act and the READ Act.
  • Ensuring Colorado remains a national leader in education through innovative policies by supporting innovative proposals at the classroom, school and district level to engage students and drive greater outcomes.
  • Replacing Colorado’s outdated student count day system with an average daily membership budgeting system to more accurately count students across the state throughout the school year.
  • Creating greater transparency in school and districts budgets so parents and taxpayers can see how dollars are spent at the local level.

Early Childhood Priorities

  • Expanding access to high quality early learning through the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and increasing opportunities for kindergarteners to attend a full day of school. CPP has been helping children become ready for school since 1988, but demand far exceeds access to spots. Full-day kindergarten has seen rapid growth around the state, but the costs of expansion have been carried by parents and school districts, making the availability inconsistent across Colorado.
  • Advocating for investments in quality improvement efforts across the early learning spectrum. High-quality programs show the greatest return on investments.
  • Increasing the affordability of child care by improving the efficiency of and expanding access to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program. This will allow more Colorado families to access the quality child care they need to work and know their kids are in a place where they can thrive.

2014 Impacts

New Progress

  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 1317 (Duran/Nicholson & Kefalas) modernizes the CCCAP program and invests $9.9 million in expanding access to quality care so that families can rely on the affordable child care they need to work. The overhaul ensures that more of Colorado’s most vulnerable kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow.
  • Pediatric Dental: HB 1053 (McCann/Aguilar) ensures that kids have access to dental benefits regardless of whether their parents buy coverage in the traditional insurance marketplace or through Connect for Health Colorado.
  • Financing Colorado’s Public Schools through the School Finance Act: HB 1298 (Hamner & Buckner/Kerr & Steadman) and the Student Success Act: HB 1292 (Hamner & Murray/Johnston & Ulibarri). With improving fiscal conditions for the state, legislators reinvested in education in a way that balanced district flexibility with targeted support for our most at-risk students. Highlights include: $20 million additional dollars for English Language Learners (up from $7 million annually for a total of $27 million dollars annually); $18 million increase for kindergarten through third grade students struggling to read (up from $20 million last year, for a total of $38 million); $17 million new investment in 5,000 new high quality early learning slots for at-risk preschoolers or kindergarteners via the innovative Early Childhood At-Risk Enhancement Program (ECARE); $3 million new investment to build a budget transparency website; and $3 million increase for the Counselor Corps Grant program (up from $5 million annually for a total of $8 million).
  • Budget Wins for Early Childhood: The 2014-15 budget includes: $2.2 million for quality improvement grants and technical assistance for early learning providers with a priority for those who enroll children subsidized by CCCAP; $1.3 million to support child care licensing staff to improve site monitoring frequency; $100,000 for literacy programs during well-child visits with pediatricians; and reimbursement rate increases for CDHS-contracted community-based providers, including $1.9 million for CCCAP providers.
  • Budget Wins for Child and Family Health: The 2014-15 budget includes: $6.2 million to implement removal of the five-year waiting period for legally residing immigrant pregnant women and children to access public health coverage; $40 million investment in modernizing the Colorado Benefits Management System; $5.3 million for strengthening the CHP+ oral health benefit; and Medicaid provider rate increases.
  • CCCAP Eligibility and Authorization Alignment:  HB 1022 (Landgraf/Newell) minimizes disruptions in child care for lowincome families by ensuring that, except in very limited cases, CCCAP-eligible families are authorized for child care assistance for at least 12 months.
  • CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: SB 003 (Nicholson/ Pettersen) provides $1.2 million to help counties launch pilot programs to mitigate the impact of the “cliff effect,” when families lose child care support due to a modest increase in salary.
  • Income Tax Credit for Child Care Expenses: HB 1072 (Pettersen & Exum/Kefalas) provides $5.4 million to ensure that working families earning less than $25,000 who have child care expenses are able to receive the same tax benefit that higher income families receive.

Protecting Progress

  • Maintaining Quality in Health Care Access: SB 32 (Lundberg/Saine) was defeated. It would have stripped important safeguards in state law governing the types of health care providers who can treat young children.
  • Moving Critical Assessments Forward: SB 136 (Marble/Saine) was defeated. It would have delayed implementation of Colorado’s new assessments aligned with the Colorado Academic Standards. A delay would have caused confusion and a step backward for kids in Colorado.
  • Educator Effectiveness Flexibility: SB 165 (Johnston & Kerr/Murray & Peniston) was passed. It creates one year of flexibility during which school districts can decide to what degree they will weight student academic growth in educators’ annual performance evaluations. This flexibility is important to ensure that new teacher evaluation systems established under the Great Teachers and Leaders Act (Senate Bill 10-191) are implemented with integrity on day one.

Missed Opportunities

  • Immunization Requirements for School Enrollment: HB 1288, (Pabon/Aguilar) requires child care centers and schools to release the percentage of children opting out of vaccine requirements. It also directs the State Board of Health to set rules on how frequently parents must submit exemptions. While these modest steps forward are important, we were disappointed that the central provision of the legislation requiring parents to demonstrate they were making a well-informed decision to exempt a child was stripped from the bill. The Children’s Campaign will continue advocating for sensible policies that protect child health and support healthy child care and school environments.
  • Assessment Study: HB 1202 (Scott/Todd) creates a task force to study the impact and timing of state and district assessments in public schools. While the Children’s Campaign supports the new end-of-year assessments due to the valuable student achievement data they yield, we are committed to ensuring the state strikes the right balance of state and local assessments without over burdening students.
  • Average Daily Membership: HB 1139 (Priola) was defeated. It would have moved Colorado’s education system from a single annual student count date system to an average daily membership system, which would give parents, advocates, educators and tax payers a more precise count of student populations throughout the year. The Children’s Campaign will continue to support future efforts to modernize Colorado’s obsolete and inefficient single count day system to ensure every student counts every day.
  • Opportunity Schools Initiative: SB 167 (Zenzinger/Fields), would have created a pilot program to provide additional funding and support for Alternative Education Campuses, which serve high-risk student populations to improve students’ postsecondary and career success. The Children’s Campaign supported this targeted and strategic initiative, however state funding was not authorized for the program this year