2015 Legislative Session

Date Posted: December 19, 2014

Intro

For three decades, Colorado Children’s Campaign has served as the leading voice for kids at the Colorado State Capitol and in local communities across the state. During this time, we’ve worked with child advocates and lawmakers from all over Colorado and from every political perspective. We’ve learned that children’s issues aren’t partisan and that we can deliver innovative, effective solutions for Colorado’s kids when we work together.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign has compiled a list of priorities for the 2015 legislative session with a focus in the areas of child health, early childhood, and K-12 education. We’re pleased to see bipartisan support in many areas impacting children’s lives.

2015 Priorities

Child Health Priorities

  • Continuing health care coverage expansion to ensure every child in Colorado has the health insurance he or she needs, public or private, to get preventive health services like well-child checks and access to affordable acute care when sick or injured.
  • Advancing opportunities to ensure every child gets a healthy start in life, including prenatal care for mothers, affordable and accessible immunizations, ample amounts of healthy foods, opportunities for safe physical activity and access to quality, affordable oral and mental health services.

K-12 Education Priorities

  • Protecting and supporting the implementation of school improvement legislation, including high academic standards, meaningful assessments that provide a full picture of student growth and needs, a framework for educator evaluation that improves professional practice, and competency-based graduation guidelines that ensure Colorado’s high school graduates are prepared for success in college and career.
  • Advocating for education funding that is sufficient, equitable and targeted to supporting our most vulnerable students, including at-risk populations, English language learners and struggling readers.

Early Childhood Priorities

  • Promoting access to quality, affordable child care by investing in the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), supporting early childhood professionals and informal caregivers, and advancing strategies to help families access the quality care they need to participate in the workforce.
  • Expanding early learning and development opportunities by supporting pre-kindergarten and kindergarten access, and encouraging public-private partnerships that promote quality early experiences.
  • Ensuring that changes to Colorado’s student academic assessment system support children’s school readiness and early literacy needs.

2015 Impacts

New Progress

  • Budget Wins : 2015-16 Budget (SB 15-234, Lambert/Hamner): 1) Increased investment in the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) to continue implementation of reforms passed last year and an additional $1.3 million for a 1.7 percent CCCAP provider rate increase. 2) $588,000 for grant and loan programs to improve the safety and quality of family, friend and neighbor care and increased access to licensed child care. 3) $750,000 to improve family support services, including those offered through Family Resource Centers. 4) $306 million in additional K-12 spending, including $25 million toward the negative factor and an additional $5 million for at-risk students. A separate bill, HB 15-1321, increases one-time funding for Colorado’s 105 small rural districts by $10 million. 5) $900,000 for support improving teacher effectiveness under SB 10-191. 6) $1.2 million for enhancements and improvements to the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS). 7) Changes to the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) to allow the use of annualized income to determine eligibility for Medicaid for families with fluctuating income.
  • Pay for Success: HB 15-1317 (Garnett & Rankin/Johnston & Martinez Humenik) will allow the state to enter into Pay for Success (PFS) contracts to increase access to evidence-based prevention programs and reduce long-term costs to the public. This bill opens the door to new investments in early childhood and prevention-oriented health services for vulnerable children and families.

Protecting Progress

  • Making Reasonable Student Assessments Reductions: HB 15-1323 (Buckner & Wilson/Holbert & Kerr) is a bipartisan solution to student assessment challenges that closely follows the spirit of the HB 14-1202 Standards and Assessments Task Force recommendations. It includes making reasonable reductions in state testing requirements while preserving the important information parents and educators receive from these assessments. In addition to reducing the frequency and number of K-12 assessments, the bill allows schools to request a pencil and paper test format. It also clarifies and extends the full implementation of accountability systems for educators, schools, and districts during the state assessment transition, and allows districts to pilot innovative approaches to assessment.
  • Maintaining High Academic Standards and Quality Assessments: Several bills were defeated that threatened recent innovations in education, such as weakening our state’s academic standards and aligned assessments or rolling back key provisions of our educator evaluation and accountability systems. These unsuccessful bills included SB 15-003, SB 15-073, SB 15-233, HB 15-1123, HB 15-1125 and HB 15-1208.
  • Ensuring a Transparent, Reliable and Equitable Assessment System: SB 15-223 (Holbert & Todd/Lebsock & Ransom) was defeated. It would have eliminated penalties for students, educators, schools and districts when parents opt their children out of assessments. The proposal threatened $350 million in federal support and jeopardized the validity and comparability of student outcomes on assessments.
  • Protecting School Breakfast After the Bell: HB 15-1080 (Joshi/Hill) was defeated. It would have limited full implementation of the successful Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program (passed with bipartisan support in 2013), and reduced the number of students who have access to a free, healthy breakfast after the school day begins.
  • Maintaining Safe and High-Quality Child Care: SB 15-070 (Lundberg/Joshi) was defeated with broad, bipartisan opposition. It would have limited state child care regulation to programs with 10 or more children, eliminating licensing requirements for nearly all family child care homes in Colorado, including criminal background checks, training requirements, sex offender registry and child abuse and neglect record checks, jeopardizing the safety of young children.

Missed Opportunities

  • Access to Effective Contraception: HB 15-1194 (Becker & Coram/Hodge) was defeated. It would have continued the highly successful Colorado Family Planning Initiative that provided long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women and teens. Between 2009 and 2013, when the Colorado Family Planning Initiative was successful in making LARCs more widely available, the birth rate among all women in Colorado ages 15 to 19 dropped 40 percent. Reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies supports the health and well-being of women and children and empowers women to attain their education, helping create financially secure and self-sufficient families.
  • Scholarships for Early Childhood Educators: HB 15-1001 (Pettersen & Garnett/Todd) was defeated. It would have helped early childhood educators access scholarship opportunities to earn new credentials and strengthen the early childhood workforce.
  • Expanded Access to Early Learning: HB 15-1020 (Wilson) and SB 15-033 (Kerr) would have increased funding for full-day kindergarten and HB 15-1024 (Pettersen & McCann/Kefalas & Todd) would have added 3,000 slots to the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP), one of our state’s most effective, proven solutions to providing quality early experiences, but all three efforts failed.
  • Teen Pregnancy and Dropout Prevention: HB 15-1079 (Coram & Danielson/Roberts) was defeated. It would have expanded a successful pilot program for teen pregnancy and dropout prevention. The program provides counseling programs to assist Medicaid eligible at-risk teens in making responsible, reproductive health choices, while preventing unintended pregnancies.
  • Maternal Mortality: HB 15-1111 (McCann/Crowder) was defeated. It would have created the Colorado maternal mortality review committee to review cases where Colorado women die during pregnancy or in the year following birth, to identify the causes of death and to develop recommendations to prevent further maternal mortalities. Preventing maternal mortality is essential to supporting young and vulnerable children.
  • Highly Effective Teachers in Low Performing Schools: HB 15-1200 (Priola/Hill) was defeated. It would have provided highly effective teachers to work in elementary, middle or junior high schools with priority improvement or turnaround plans.
  • Innovative Measures of Student Growth: HB 15-1324 (Young & Danielson/Kerr & Scott) was defeated. It would have created a consortium through which local education providers could meet and exchange information, expertise and best practices for designing and implementing student learning objectives. The objectives are educator-created goals for student learning that are a feasible alternative to standardized assessment for measuring student academic growth.
  • School Finance Reform: HB 15-1334 (Hamner & Rankin/Kerr & Hill) was defeated. It would have created an interim legislative oversight committee to review our outdated school finance formula and made recommendations for the components of a new school finance system in Colorado.
  • State Budget Flexibility: HB 15-1389 (Hullinghorst & Court/Steadman) was defeated. It would have transferred the Hospital Provider Fee to a state-owned enterprise within the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, to create flexibility in the budget for key priorities including K-12 education, higher education and transportation.
  • High Quality School Options: SB 15-216 (Hill/Fields) was defeated. It would have allowed the state Charter School Institute (CSI) to open new schools within a district that has been on the state’s priority improvement or turnaround “clock” for three or more consecutive school years, creating the opportunity for high quality school options for students in all districts.