Capitol Update: Child Care Accessibility, Bilingual Students, Connect for Health Colorado Budget Request, and More

SB17-110 (Crowder & Kefalas) Accessibility of Exempt Family Child Care

Colorado’s current law exempting some forms of child care from licensing is unclear about current informal child care arrangements such as sharing a nanny or other informal in-home care. This bill would clarify that when someone is caring for no more than four children, including no more than two children under two years of age, they are exempt from child care licensing. Read more about the bill and why the Children’s Campaign strongly supports it here.

SB17-061 (Hill & Williams/Sias) Funding for Charter Operating Costs

This bill requires school districts to distribute local locally raised tax dollars equally, on a per-student basis, to the school district charter schools. Read more about the bill and why the Children’s Campaign strongly supports it here.

Medicaid Funding for Connect for Health Colorado

This budget item would allow Connect for Health Colorado, our state-run insurance Marketplace, to be reimbursed for costs related to determining whether a family is eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) as part of its work to help families find affordable health coverage in the state of Colorado.  Connect for Health Colorado is currently performing these eligibility determinations and is not being reimbursed for its costs and the state is also not able to draw down the available federal reimbursement for these costs. Read more about the budget request and why the Children’s Campaign supports it here.

Capitol Update: First week bill highlights include corporal punishment, teacher shortage and Medicaid access

capitolkf1The Colorado General Assembly convened this week with leaders in the House and Senate laying out their hopes for the 2017 legislative session. Again this year, the Senate is controlled by Republicans and the House is controlled by Democrats. That means legislation must have bipartisan votes and the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to become law. We encourage you to read the opening remarks from leaders in both branches to get a sense of their priorities:

Each session, the Children’s Campaign tracks legislation that impacts the health and education of Colorado children. Many bills were introduced on the opening day; here are a few highlights:

HB 17-1038 (Lontine) Prohibit Corporal Punishment of Children in Certain Public Settings  

The bill prohibits anyone working or volunteering in a public school, a state-licensed child care center, a family child care home, or a specialized group facility from imposing corporal punishment on a child. “Corporal punishment” means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a child. Read more about the bill and why the Children’s Campaign supports it here.

HB 17-1003 (McLachlan) Strategic Plan to Address Teacher Shortages

This bill requires the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Education to prepare a strategic plan to address teacher shortages in Colorado. Read more about the bill and why the Children’s Campaign supports it here.

SB 17-004 (Tate/Wist) Access to Non-Enrolled Providers for Medicaid Recipients

This bill would allow medical providers who are not enrolled in the Medicaid program to charge Medicaid clients for Medicaid-covered services. Under current law, Medicaid clients are not responsible for the cost of services they receive from a medical provider, regardless of whether the provider is enrolled in the Medicaid program, unless the medical services provided are not reimbursable by Medicaid.We opposed a similar bill last year and are still reviewing this proposed legislation. Read more about the bill here.

These are just a few highlights—check out our Capitol Updates archive page to keep up with legislation impacting Colorado kids.

Capitol Update

State Budget (Long Bill): SB 15-234 (Lambert/Hamner)—The Colorado House of Representatives voted 45-20 to approve a $25 billion state budget after two days of debate. The House added 12 amendments to the Long Bill, including funding for continuing evidence-based family planning initiatives such as the LARC program, and funding to improve dental care for children on Medicaid. Amendments that were proposed, but rejected, would have cut funding for Colorado’s immunization registry and de-funded state academic assessments in English Language Arts and Math. These debates provided legislators an opportunity to discuss policy priorities for our state and how best to allocate resources. Notable investments that are a part of the Long Bill include ongoing funding for child care assistance, new investments in increasing access to child care, increases for K-12 education, and ongoing access to health care for vulnerable children. Notably, the budget includes a set-aside of $187 million for expected TABOR rebates. The bill now heads to the Joint Budget Committee to resolve the differences between the two chambers’ versions of the legislation in conference committee. The Children’s Campaign will continue to monitor the budget debates and advocate for smart investments to support Colorado’s children.

Assessments Changes: HB 15-1323 (Buckner/Wilson) was laid over for action by the House Education Committee after hearing testimony this week. The legislation closely reflects the recommendations of the HB 14-1202 Standards and Assessments Task Force. The Children’s Campaign supports this bill with the addition of keeping annual testing in English and math in the ninth grade because of the benefits of having continuity of growth measures as students begin their high school careers. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney testified in support of the bill, saying: “We fundamentally see high-quality, consistent assessment as an issue of equity—there is nothing more important than ensuring that all students are making progress, no matter their background or zip code.” Read a summary of the bill here.

Threats to Education Innovation: A series of bills heard this week by the Senate Education Committee threaten Colorado’s recent innovations in education. The Children’s Campaign strongly opposes these proposals. They include:

  • Reducing Academic Growth Factor in Educator Evaluation: SB 15-003 (Merrifield) would eliminate the requirement that at least 50 percent of a teacher’s or principal’s performance evaluation be determined by the academic growth of the teacher’s students or the students in the principal’s school. This bill was laid over for action only.
  • Restrict State Assessments to Federal Minimums: SB 15-073 (Merrifield) would have reduced testing to the federal minimums. This bill was postponed indefinitely at the request of the sponsor, Sen. Merrifield.
  • Revising CO Education Accountability Measures: SB 15-233 (Marble & Woods/Everett) was approved by the Senate Education Committee on a 5-4 party line vote and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This bill repeals the Colorado Academic Standards in English language arts, math, science and social studies; removes Colorado from the PARCC assessment consortium and requires the development of assessments aligned to Colorado’s old standards; eliminates assessments in social studies; eliminates the ACT in 11th grade; and makes drastic changes to the educator evaluation system.
  • Standards and Assessments Flexibility Pilot: SB 15-257 (Merrifield & Hill/Singer & Becker) was approved by the Senate Education Committee in an 8-1 vote and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would reduce assessments to federal minimums; create a district pilot assessment system that would eliminate statewide comparability of results; eliminate social studies testing; and move up review and revision of the Colorado Academic Standards by two years.

Assessments Opt-Out: SB 15-223 (Holbert & Todd/Lebsock & Ransom) was approved by the Senate in a bipartisan 28-7 vote and moves to the House. The bill eliminates penalties for students, educators, schools, and districts when parents opt their children out of assessments, but there are many other potential unintended consequences of the legislation. Click here to read more about the bill, including VP for Education Initiatives Leslie Colwell’s full testimony in opposition to the bill.

Student Learning Objectives: HB 15-1324 (Young & Danielson/Scott & Kerr) was approved by the House Education committee in a 6-5 vote. Student learning objectives (SLOs) are educator-created goals for student learning that are tied to specific subject areas and instructional periods as a feasible alternative to assessment for measuring student academic growth. This bill creates a student learning objectives process consortium through which local education providers can meet and exchange information, expertise, and best practices around designing and implementing SLOs. It also establishes implementation grants that may be applied for by LEPs. The Children’s Campaign supports the bill.

Charter School Authorization: SB 15-216 (Hill/Fields) was approved by the full Senate, 21-14. This bill allows 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. School districts will be able to retain their exclusive chartering authority if they establish a memorandum of understanding with CSI. The Children’s Campaign supports this proposal.

Maternal Mortality Prevention: HB 15-1111 (McCann/Crowder) was postponed indefinitely in the Senate Finance committee on Thursday after failing on a party-line vote. The bill would have created the Colorado maternal mortality review committee to review cases where Colorado women die during pregnancy or in the year following birth, identify the causes of death and develop recommendations to prevent further maternal mortalities. We supported this bill because of our commitment to the mental health and social-emotional development of young children and the recognition that preventing maternal mortality is essential to supporting young and vulnerable children. Those opposed to the bill cited concerns about data privacy. We are disappointed in this outcome and troubled by the fact that policymakers are not embracing data as a means to develop smart public health and safety strategies.

Looking Ahead:

Pay for Success: HB 15-1317 (Garnett & Rankin/Johnston & Martinez Humenik) will be heard in the House Business Affairs and Labor committee on Tuesday, April 14. This legislation will allow the state to enter into Pay For Success contracts to increase access to evidence-based prevention programs and ultimately save public money. In a PFS contract, philanthropic or private investors provide the initial funding for a promising intervention that could save public dollars if implemented. Only if the intervention program reaches a threshold of success that saves money within the contractual period are initial costs paid back.  Without authorizing legislation, state cost savings would not be able to be used in a PFS contract. This legislation will allow policymakers to utilize this innovative approach to reducing state costs while providing important preventative services which are often focused on improving access to quality early learning and health programs. To learn more about this approach and other states that have used it, please see the fact sheet here.

Capitol Update – May 23, 2014

  • Legislative Impacts: We’ve released our annual legislative impacts report summarizing our priority legislation during the 2014 Colorado General Assembly. We’re grateful to the many legislators, partners and supporters who helped ensure Colorado kids were a priority this session. Click here to download a copy.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran/Nicholson, Kefalas) was signed into law Thursday by the governor at the Capitol. The law 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. Read more about the development of this bill in past issues of Kids Flash.
  • CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: SB 14-003 (Nicholson/Pettersen) was signed Thursday. It 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 14-1072 (Pettersen & Exum/Kefalis) was signed Thursday as well. In 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.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signs a package of bills on Thursday to make affordable child care available to more working Colorado families.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signs a package of bills on Thursday to make affordable child care available to more working Colorado families.
  • School Finance: HB 14-1298 (Hamner & Buckner/Kerr & Steadman) and Student Success Act: HB 1292 (Hamner & Murray/Johnston & Ulibarri) were signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this week at Ponderosa Elementary School in Aurora. The bipartisan bills restore cuts in school funding made during the recession and make targeted investments in services for kids who need it most. Read more about the package here.
Rep. Millie Hamner speaks at the signing ceremony for HB 1292 and HB 1298. Photo by Colorado House Democrats.
Rep. Millie Hamner speaks at the signing ceremony for HB 1292 and HB 1298. Photo by Colorado House Democrats.
  • Vaccine Rates: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was signed by the governor this week at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The new law 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. Click here to read more.
Gov. Hickenlooper signs HB 1288 on Thursday with Rep. Dan Pabon and members of the coalition supporting the bill. Photo by Tia Brayman, Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Gov. Hickenlooper signs HB 1288 on Thursday with Rep. Dan Pabon and members of the coalition supporting the bill. Photo by Tia Brayman, Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Capitol Update – May 9, 2014

CapitolThe 2014 Session of the Colorado General Assembly ended this week with a flurry of action on several major bills, with legislators waiting until the final day give final approval to the constitutionally required School Finance Act. In total, 621 pieces of legislation were introduced, with 167 bills passed by the legislature and signed into law, 214 bills killed and two vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The governor now has until June 6, 2014 to act on the 238 bills approved during the session.

While the 2014 session was not without controversy or political contention, this year’s legislature did not see nearly the level of partisanship and political divide that resulted from the high pressure debates over gun control legislation in 2013. The summer 2013 recall elections that resulted from the highly partisan battles over gun control issues also had a substantial impact on the 2014 legislature. The Senate Democratic majority was cut from five seats to one, a rebalancing of political power in that chamber that resulted in many bills either passing or failing by a one-vote margin.

With end of session marking the official transition for most lawmakers—and Gov. Hickenlooper—from legislative work to campaigning for reelection in the November 2014 elections, political messaging and maneuvering was a consistent theme throughout the 2014 legislative session. While measures to repeal all of the gun control laws passed in 2013 were introduced, the bills quickly and quietly died in their first committees, issues related to local control of oil and gas fracking operations, the regulation of retail marijuana sales and marijuana industry banking, telecommunications reform and business and economic development provided plenty of strong debates between the parties.

2014 brought another active year of legislative engagement for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. This session we monitored more than 90 pieces of legislation and engaged in active support or opposition of 26 bills this year. Legislation regarding child immunization policy, K-12 education policy and financing, and child care reform were the Children’s Campaign’s priorities in the child health, education and early childhood issue areas. While many policy challenges remain, there is no doubt that the 2014 legislative session was a positive session for Colorado’s kids on many fronts.

In addition to the updates below, please stay tuned for our 2014 Legislative Impacts report. It will detail legislation in K-12, early childhood and child health that was considered this session.

Funding Colorado’s Public Schools – School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) and Student Success Act: HB 1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston, Ulibarri). Although the two bills ran as separate legislation they acted as a package with the goal of providing additional and targeted funding for students across the state. Both bills moved through their final stages in the legislature and were sent to the governor for his signature in the final days and hours of the 2014 legislative session. In the end, the bills increased total education funding (the combination of state and local dollars) from $5.76 billion this year to $5.91 billion in 2014-15. This means per pupil funding statewide will rise from $6,839 to $7,020. The Children’s Campaign tirelessly advocated for this comprehensive package that included additional flexible funding for all schools, as well as targeted dollars for our state’s most vulnerable students. We thank the sponsors for their deep commitment to serving all children in a bipartisan and thoughtful manner. In addition to an overall increase to base funding for all students in order to account for student growth and inflation, the legislation provided:

    • $27 million dollars for English Language Learners (ELL). Previously, English Language Learners received $7 million dollars annually. This investment will not only help serve our growing population of ELL students, but will allow for stronger support for each student.
    • $18 million additional dollars for kindergarten through third grade students struggling to read. This addition comes on top of the $20 million Colorado invests through the READ Act for a total of $38 million to help ensure all students are able to read by the end of third grade.
    • $17 million additional dollars to expand access to quality early learning for at-risk preschoolers or kindergarteners through the innovative Early Childhood At Risk Enhancement Program.
    • $11.5 million more dollars for charter school facilities. The Charter School Capital Construction Fund will grow from $7 million to at least $13.5 million next year and by 2015-16 the fund will grow to $20 million.
    • $110 million dollars to restore cuts made to school funding during the recession (negative factor reduction).
    • $3 million to build a budget transparency website so parents and taxpayers can clearly see how education dollars are spent down to the school level.
    • $3 million additional dollars for the Counselor Corps Grant program, which supports counselors in middle and high schools to help students at risk of dropping out, bringing the total funding for the program to $8 million annually.

Reduced-Price Lunch: HB 14-1156 (Moreno/Ulibarri) is headed to the governor for approval after the House agreed with amendments passed in the Senate. The bill removes the reduced-price lunch co-pay of 40 cents for students in grades 3 through 5. The co-pay was previously removed for students in public early childhood programs and for those in grades K-3. Click here to learn more.

CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: SB 14-003 (Nicholson/Pettersen) was approved by the Senate 19-16 and by the House 42-23 with bipartisan support in both chambers. This helps counties launch pilot programs to mitigate the impact of the cliff effect on a family’s child care benefits. Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, testified in support of the bill. “Solving the cliff effect is an important issue for helping adults move to self-sufficiency and promoting the economic development of our state,” Jaeger said. “But it is just as important for helping young and vulnerable children maintain access to quality early learning opportunities.” The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. Click here to learn more.

School Closure Plans: HB14-1381 (Fields/Todd) passed through the Senate and moved to the governor’s desk for his signature. When a school is not adequately serving and supporting its student population, investments and reforms can be made to improve school performance. However, if changes are made and student achievement levels do not rise, it is imperative that district administrators make the tough decisions necessary so students have opportunities to attend stronger schools. Often, this results in the decision to close a chronically underperforming school. House Bill 1381 puts in place minimum guidelines based on best practice to ensure that when a closure occurs, a plan is set in place to inform the community and support students. The Children’s Campaign supported this legislation, recognizing the need for strong accountability as well as intentional supports for students.

Capitol Update – May 2, 2014

  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran/Nicholson, Kefalas) received bipartisan approval in the Senate, passing 20-15 this week. Early Friday, the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Thank you to everyone who wrote their legislators to urge support for this legislation. The bill now includes a study of provider participation in CCCAP, strives to improve reimbursement rates as appropriations are available, and also clarifies a number of provisions to aid in county implementation of the bill. CCCAP is an essential piece of the early learning landscape and these changes, coupled with new investments, represent an exciting step towards ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Please click here to see supporters, including advocates, providers, counties and business leaders, and read more about the bill.
  • Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston, Ulibarri), was approved by the Senate 33-2. An amendment was passed to restore funding for struggling readers, however, the negotiations are ongoing regarding how to structure a budget transparency system to help parents and taxpayers understand how education funds are spent within the public education system. The bill received significant debate on the Senate floor, which concluded with Republicans and Democrats joining together to pass the increased funding for education. The bill now moves back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. It is unclear at this point if the negotiations around the budget transparency sections in this legislation could force the bill into a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the final versions of this bill that passed each chamber. Read more about the hearing and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
  • School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) The annual school funding legislation was passed by the Colorado Senate with a bipartisan vote of 23-12 earlier this week. The annual roadmap for public school spending this year builds on last year’s innovative proposal to allow more children to enroll in the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten, known as ECARE, the Early Childhood At Risk Enhancement program. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Education Initiatives, Reilly Pharo, testified in support of the ECARE provision along with the additional funding for English Language Learners. Like the Student Success Act, the School Finance Act now returns to its chamber of origin, the House, for consideration of Senate Amendments. It is uncertain at this time whether one or both of the substantial school funding bills will move into a conference committee to reconcile the different versions that were passed by the House and Senate. Together, the School Finance Act and Student Success Act seek to make nearly $500 million in additional investments into Colorado’s public education system when compared to current spending levels.It is important to note that leading state economists in the Governor’s office and some lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee have expressed concerns that this level of investment could require too much spending of State Education Fund reserve dollars. The Hickenlooper administration has prioritized increasing reserve fund balances, including the State Education Fund, to prevent the need for substantial cuts should the state face another downturn in the economy. Therefore, both the Student Success Act and the School Finance Act face uncertain paths forward in the remaining three days of the legislative session. The bills may receive some cuts in order to adhere to the Governor’s revenue limit request.
  • CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: SB 14-003 (Nicholson/Pettersen) was approved by the Senate 35-0 and by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee with bipartisan support. It helps counties launch pilot programs to mitigate the impact of the cliff effect on a family’s child care benefits. Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, testified in support of the bill Thursday. “Solving the Cliff Effect is an important issue for helping adults move to self-sufficiency and promoting the economic development of our state,” Jaeger said. “But it is just as important for helping young and vulnerable children maintain access to quality early learning opportunities.” The bill now moves to House Appropriations and then the House floor for consideration. Click here to learn more.
  • School Closure Guidelines: HB-1381 (Fields/Todd) was approved by the Senate Education Committee by a party line vote of 4-3. Children’s Campaign Director of Government Affairs, Dan O’Connell, testified in support of this measure, which seeks to ensure that evidence-backed practices are put into place when students, parents, educators, and communities face the difficult transitions that stem from the closure of chronically underperforming schools. While it is important that school closure remains an option to preserve strong accountability in Colorado’s public education system and ensure that students have access to quality schools, it is important that such an important transition such as a school closure is clearly communicated and includes supports to minimize harmful impacts on students, educators and communities.

Capitol Update – Apr.11, 2014

  • Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) had its second and final hearing in the Senate Committee on State, Military and Veteran Affairs Wednesday, but no vote was taken. We expect the committee to vote on the bill early next week. Click here to write a letter to urge your senator to vote YES on this important public health measure. It’s About Kids Network Leader Don Parsons from Summit County joined several parents, pediatricians, public health experts and advocates who testified in support of the bill. It strikes the right balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health by ensuring parents are making well-informed and carefully considered choices about vaccinating their children before enrolling them in child care or school. Proponents of the bill include parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was approved on a preliminary voice vote Thursday in the House and now moves to the Senate. The bill was amended to include a study of provider participation in CCCAP, reimbursement rates, and also clarify a number of provisions to aid in county implementation of the bill. CCCAP is one of our best tools to help families afford child care. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Please click here to see the growing list of bill supporters that includes advocates, providers, counties, and business leaders and read more about the bill.
  • Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston), was approved by the House Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 51 to 14. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney previously testified in support of the bill because it strikes the right balance between putting funding toward cuts made to K-12 education in recent years and targeting one-time dollars toward the populations hit hardest by the recession. “From preschool through graduation, we must ensure that every Colorado child has every chance to succeed,” Watney said. Read more about the proposal and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
  • School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) was also approved by the House by a bipartisan vote of 39 to 26, and now moves to the Senate. The annual roadmap for public school spending this year builds on last year’s innovative proposal to allow more children to enroll in the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten. The bill was amended to require the state to prioritize new early childhood slots to full-day kindergarten over preschool for at-risk children. We are concerned that this amendment undercuts the goal of the program, which is to recognize that some communities have much greater unmet need for preschool access and should be able to prioritize those children.
  • Budget bill: HB 14-1336 (Duran/Steadman), the annual state budget legislation commonly referred to as the “Long Bill” has been approved by both chambers. The bill is crafted by the Joint Budget Committee, which balances Colorado’s budget each year for the following budget year. Approval of a balanced state budget is the single constitutional requirement of the General Assembly. The bill includes funding for a package of legislation to strengthen Colorado’s efforts to make child care more affordable and accessible for working Colorado families. This includes Children’s Campaign priority bill HB 14-1317 (see above), as well as HB 14-1072, which makes Colorado’s child care tax credit accessible to more families. It also includes SB 14-003, which helps counties launch pilot programs to help mitigate the impact of the cliff effect on a family’s child care benefits.
  • Elimination of mutual consent: HB 14-1268 (Salazar/Todd) was withdrawn by Rep. Salazar this week and won’t get further consideration this session. The legislation was brought forward as part of a two-pronged approach to roll back provisions of Senate Bill 10-191. That landmark legislation eliminated the practice of forced placement, which meant that if a teacher had earned tenure they were guaranteed a position in in a school even if the principal and/or the teacher did not believe it was the right fit. More than 90 percent of Coloradans agree that forced placement is a bad practice and supported ending it in 2010. For more, read a Denver Post op-ed by former governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter. Every student deserves a high quality teacher in their classroom and leader in their building. Kids cannot afford a year with a teacher that is not a good fit.
  • Reduced-Price Lunch: HB 14-1156 (Moreno/Ulibarri) was approved by the House Appropriations Committee Friday 10-3 and moves to the full House. The bill removes the reduced-price lunch co-pay of $0.40 for students in grades 3 through 5. The co-pay was previously removed for students in public early childhood programs and for those in grades P-3. For a modest state investment of approximately $819K, Colorado will leverage more than $21 million in federal dollars. Click here to learn more.

Capitol Update – Apr. 4, 2014

  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was approved by the House Appropriations Committee 8-5 and moves to the full House. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and keep good jobs, move forward in their careers and education and achieve financial stability while ensuring their kids have access to stimulating environments that help them learn and grow. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in Colorado denies many working families access to this vital need. One of our best tools to help families afford child care is CCCAP. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Click here to read more.
  • Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston), was approved by the House Appropriations Committee unanimously and moves to the full House. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney previously testified in support of the bill because it strikes the right balance between putting funding toward cuts made to K-12 education in recent years and targeting one-time dollars toward the populations hit hardest by the recession. “From preschool through graduation, we must ensure that every Colorado child has every chance to succeed,” Watney said. Read more about the proposal and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
  • Alternative Health Care Providers Treating Children: SB 14-32 (Lundberg/Saine) was defeated by the House Health Insurance and Environment Committee 6-3. It would have eliminated safeguards designed to protect our youngest children by allowing alternative health care providers to treat children of any age, without limitation around services that can be provided or disclosures regarding training and qualifications. The Children’s Campaign joined the American Academy of Pediatrics-Colorado Chapter, Children’s Hospital Colorado and consumer advocacy groups in opposing this legislation. Children’s Campaign Policy Analyst Hanna Nichols testified in opposition to the bill, highlighting that essential and time-sensitive health care services that all young children need—including immunizations and developmental screenings—can only can be provided by trained medical professionals. The bill would have put those services at risk for many Colorado children and undermined legislation passed last year to ensure children under age 2 receive these important services. Click here to learn more.
  • Budget bill: HB 14-1336 (Duran/Steadman) The annual state budget legislation, commonly referred to as the “Long Bill” has been approved by both chambers. The bill is crafted by the Joint Budget Committee, which balances Colorado’s budget each year for the following budget year. Approval of a balanced state budget is the single constitutional requirement of the General Assembly. The bill includes funding for a package of legislation to strengthen Colorado’s efforts to make child care more affordable and accessible for working Colorado families. This includes Children’s Campaign priority bill HB 14-1317 (see above), as well as HB 14-1072, which makes Colorado’s child care tax credit accessible to more families. It also includes SB 14-3, which helps counties launch pilot programs to help mitigate the cliff effect.

Capitol Update – Mar. 28, 2014

  • Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) passed in the House of Representatives on Monday with a bipartisan 42-19 vote and now moves to the Senate. The bill strikes the right balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health by ensuring parents are making well-informed and carefully considered choices about vaccinating their children before enrolling them in child care or school. Proponents of the bill include parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
  • Budget bill: HB 14-1336 (Duran/Steadman) The annual state budget legislation, commonly referred to as the “Long Bill” was introduced in the House this week. The bill is crafted by the Joint Budget Committee, which balances Colorado’s budget each year for the following budget year. Approval of a balanced state budget is the single constitutional requirement of the General Assembly. The budget process was condensed this year as House members broke into Republican and Democrat caucus meetings on Wednesday to discuss the provisions of the legislation. Thursday morning, suggested amendments were released and discussed during the several hours the bill was heard on second reading on the House floor.An amendment to eliminate the Colorado Department of Education’s funding for academic assessments and instead invest it in the negative factor was offered by Rep. Holbert. The amendment was defeated with bipartisan opposition. Colorado is committed to improving college and career readiness of students by revising our standards to create the Colorado Academic Standards. They are aligned with Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. Determining whether students are on track to master these standards requires developing high quality assessments. All four content assessments (science, social studies, math and English language arts) were developed with involvement from Colorado educators and experts, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests for math and English language arts. With high quality standards and aligned assessments in place, Colorado students will be assessed on skills they are expected to learn, eliminating the need to refocus daily lessons to teach to a test that is assessing different skills. Read more about the Colorado Academic Standards and aligned PARCC assessments.
  • Opportunities Schools Initiative: SB 14-167 (Zenzinger/Fields) This week, the Senate Education committee heard testimony regarding Alternative Education Campuses (AECs). These are schools serving our state’s most high risk students. They are schools in which at least 95 percent of the student body population is classified at at-risk and all too often these are the students that end up as disengaged youth. This proposal takes a targeted approach at serving high-risk youth, particularly through reengagement, by implementing research-based, transformative school models. The legislation establishes a pilot program to serve up to 600 students, often referred to as “opportunity youth.” The pilot will provide additional funding to participating schools, collect data on student outcomes and provide information to replicate strategies that positively supported students. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Education Initiatives, Reilly Pharo, testified in support of this targeted and strategic piece of legislation. The Senate Education Committee will take action on this pending legislation in the coming weeks. Click here to read more.

Capitol Update – Mar. 14, 2014

  • Strengthen Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was approved 9-2 by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee late Thursday evening after more than six hours of testimony. The bill strikes a balance between preserving parental choice and protecting public health by strengthening rules parents can use to opt-out of childhood vaccinations. Proponents for the bill included parents, public health officials, school leaders, early childhood experts, infectious disease specialists and advocates from across Colorado. It’s About Kids Network Leaders Vangi McCoy (Montezuma County) and Shirley Ritter (Pitkin County) testified in favor of the bill. It seeks to reduce the number of children who go to school without the vaccinations they need to protect them from preventable diseases like whooping cough. The bill has broad support from the health, education and child advocacy communities, as well as bi-partisan sponsorship. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
  • Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was introduced this week and is scheduled for its first hearing on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and to keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers, education, and achieve financial stability. At the same time, all Colorado kids need access to stimulating environments that help them learn and grow. Unfortunately, the low supply and high cost of child care in Colorado denies many working families access to this vital need. One of our best tools to help families afford child care is CCCAP. But red tape and administrative inconsistencies make it unworkable for many working parents and child care providers. The innovative changes proposed for CCCAP would help keep our economy moving by supporting working parents and ensuring more Colorado kids have access to stimulating experiences that let them discover, explore and grow. Click here to read more.
  • Alternative Health Care Providers Treating Children: SB 14-32 (Lundberg/no House sponsor) was approved by the full Senate 18-17 this week and moves to the House. It would eliminate safeguards designed to protect our youngest children by allowing alternative health care providers to treat children of any age, without limitation around services that can be provided or disclosures regarding training and qualifications. The Children’s Campaign joins the American Academy of Pediatrics-Colorado Chapter, Children’s Hospital Colorado and consumer advocacy groups in opposing this legislation. Essential and time-sensitive health care services that all young children need—including immunizations and developmental screenings—can only can be provided by trained medical professionals. SB 32 undermines legislation passed last year to ensure children under age 2 receive these important services. Click here to learn more.
  • School Counselor Corps Grant Program: SB 14-150 (Todd/Zenzinger, Hamner) was approved 4-2 by the Senate Education Committee Thursday and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Children’s Campaign supports this increase in targeted funding that helps increase effective school-based counseling within high schools with a focus on preparing students for college, career and life. Roughly 54,000 students across the state are positively impacted by the program each year. The Counselor Corps program serves schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students.  Since the program’s inception in 2008 it has a proven record of increasing on-time graduation rates, decreasing dropout rates and decreasing remediation rates as students go on to college. We thank Sens. Todd and Zenzinger and Rep. Hamner for their wise use of state dollars to invest in programs we know are impacting the lives of students across Colorado.