- 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.
Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was amended and approved 3-2 by the Senate Committee on State, Military and Veteran Affairs Wednesday and moves to the full Senate. The amendment struck the portion of the bill that would have required parents electing a personal belief exemption to either get a medical provider’s signature or complete an online course. The new version of the bill still directs the state to create the educational online module in order to provide credible, evidence-based information about vaccines and requires schools and child care centers to disclose vaccination and exemption rates upon request. Finally, the bill still requires the Board of Health to create regulations on how often schools and child care centers must collect signed personal belief exemption forms from parents choosing to opt-out of vaccinations. As amended, the bill retains important provisions that will provide parents and policymakers with more accurate and detailed information about vaccine efficacy and exemption in Colorado. However, we are disappointed to have lost the key element of the measure, which would have ensured parents electing an exemption were doing so after careful consideration. As demonstrated by recent public opinion polling, there was strong support for House Bill 1288 in its full form across Colorado. We thank the many child advocates who spoke up in support of the bill and look forward to continuing to work together to advocate for policies that support healthy kids and healthy schools. Read more about the bill in past issues of KidsFlash or download a fact sheet for more information.
Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston, Ulibarri), after five and a half hours of debate, was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee Thursday. It goes on to the Senate Finance Committee before going to Appropriations. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney testified in support of the bill in the form that it left the House 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. “As the economy recovers, you have an opportunity with this bill to make sure that the children who were hardest hit by the recession are a top priority for reinvestment,” Watney said. Unfortunately, near the end of the hearing two detrimental amendments were adopted. One would reduce funding directed toward struggling readers and the other watered down the budget transparency component of the bill. The reduction in money for students identified as having a significant reading deficiency under the READ Act dismisses the fact that after the legislation passed in 2012, teachers have identified double the number of children thought to be struggling readers, for a total of over 42,000 students in K-3 across the state. Research shows us the importance of all students mastering literacy by the time they leave third grade. We will work with legislators to reverse these detrimental amendments. Read more about the hearing and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
School Finance Act: HB 14-1298 (Hamner, Buckner/Kerr, Steadman) was also heard in Senate Education and directed to the Senate Finance Committee after passing on a vote of 4-3. 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. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives Bill Jaeger testified alongside other early childhood advocate in support of the ECARE provision. Bill urged lawmakers to reverse the amendment made in the House that prioritized funding toward kindergarten over preschool because research shows the incredible value of a child receiving both high quality preschool and kindergarten. “There is a cumulative cost to the child and to our public education system when children enter school unprepared. If we take the long view, there are substantial cost savings associated with investing early rather than remediating late,” Jaeger said. Sen. Steadman offered and passed an amendment to reverse detrimental changes made in the House.
Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) received final approval in the House with a bipartisan vote of 38 to 24 and moves to the Senate. The bill was amended in committee 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. As a result of these changes, the bill now has the full support of Colorado Counties, Inc. 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.
CCCAP Cliff Effect Pilot: HB 14-003 (Nicholson/Petterson) was approved 4-3 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. 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. “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.” Click here to learn more.
Reduced-Price Lunch: HB 14-1156 (Moreno/Ulibarri) was approved by the House this week by a vote of 38-26 and now moves to 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.
- Revenue Forecast: Tuesday, leading state economists presented the March 2014 state revenue and economic forecast. The forecast projects that Colorado’s General Fund revenue will be approximately $93 million higher than the previous forecast in 2013. In short, Colorado’s economy continues to show sustained economic momentum with many indications that the state has among the best-performing economies in the nation. The forecast noted, however, that both nationally and in Colorado, economic progress has not been even, as many communities and regions continue to feel the lingering effects of the economic downturn.The March forecast sets the stage for the 47 days remaining in the 2014 legislative session. Monday, the House of Representatives will introduce the annual spending legislation, the “Long Bill,” that lays out the State of Colorado’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15. Additionally, a flux of pending legislation is now backlogged in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and will now likely begin moving as lawmakers attempt to make the difficult decisions on which priorities to fund, and which priorities will fail due to lack of funding. For more information, see the Legislative Council March Revenue Forecast, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting Forecast, or news reports from the Denver Post and Chalkbeat CO.
- Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Overhaul: HB 14-1317 (Duran, Nicholson/Kefalas) was approved by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee with a bipartisan 8-5 vote this week. It now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. Bill Jaeger, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Learning Initiatives, testified for the bill with several other early learning advocates. Affordable child care should support working parents’ efforts to find and keep good jobs, to move forward in their careers and 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.
- Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston), was approved by the House Education Committee on a bipartisan 11-1 vote this week. It moves on to the House Appropriations Committee. Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney had 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 Education Committee this week with a party line 7-5 vote. It moves on to the House Appropriations Committee. 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 ingenuity in this bill is the flexibility it provides in expanding access to quality early learning through preschool and full-day kindergarten,” Bill Jaeger, Children’s Campaign Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, told lawmakers in a previous hearing.
- Tighten Vaccine Opt-Out Rules: HB 14-1288 (Pabon/Aguilar) was approved with a bi-partisan vote voice vote by the House of Representatives on Friday morning. After the third reading it will move 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.
Alternative Health Care Providers Treating Children: SB 14-32 (Lundberg/no House sponsor) would eliminate safeguard provisions designed to protect our youngest children, 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 bill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week and moves to the full Senate. The Children’s Campaign joins the American Academy of Pediatrics-Colorado Chapter and Children’s Hospital Colorado 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.
Student Success Act: HB 14-1292 (Hamner, Murray/Johnston), was officially introduced this week and is scheduled for a first hearing Monday, March 3, in the House Education Committee. The legislation strikes a balance between reversing cuts made to K-12 education in recent years and targeting one-time dollars toward the populations hit hardest by the recession. The Student Success Act also aims to strengthen transparency and accountability in our education system by ensuring school-level budget transparency and moving to a multiple-day student counting system. The Children’s Campaign thanks the group of more than 30 legislators from both sides of the aisle for this thoughtful proposal. Read more about the proposal and our position on reinvesting in K-12 education.
Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) Eligibility and Authorization Alignment: HB 14-1022 (Landgraf/Newell) passed out of the Senate unanimously on Friday and is now headed to the governor for his signature. This proposal would help minimize disruptions in child care for low-income families by ensuring that, except in limited cases, CCCAP-eligible families are authorized for child care assistance for a full 12 months. Click here for more details and list of supporters.
Task Force to Study Colorado Academic Standards and Aligned Assessments: HB 14-1202 (Scott/Todd) unanimously passed the House Education committee on Wednesday and now heads to House Appropriation. The legislation has changed since introduction and now establishes a task force to study the impact and importance of Colorado’s standards-based education system. This school year, the Colorado Academic Standards were implemented across the state. Next week, students will take the new state-developed social studies and science assessments. Next year, the new math and English/language arts assessments will be implemented. The Children’s Campaign is excited to see the implementation of these thoughtful and necessary changes across the state and welcomes a task force to analyze the implementation of these critical policies. We will continue to monitor this relevant conversation.
Highly Effective Teachers Program: HB 14-1262 (Priola) would have created a program to enable school districts and charter schools to offer salary bonuses to attract highly effective teachers to low-performing schools. This effort would have supported schools seeking to implement aggressive turnaround plans to boost student performance. Children’s Campaign Vice President of Education Reilly Pharo testified in support of the bill and the strong evidence that it would drive achievement in struggling schools. The House Education Committee rejected this legislation by a vote of 6-7, primarily due to fiscal concerns.
A bipartisan group of legislators on Thursday outlined the Student Success Act of 2014, legislation aimed at increasing investments in K-12 education.
Democratic and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives joined members of the House Education Committee and the bill’s prime sponsors, Rep. Carole Murray, Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Michael Johnston, in a press conference to announce their support of the package of new support for schools.
The sponsors said the spending package was designed to address some of our state’s most pressing challenges using existing resources. The lawmakers said they had to balance school district requests to restore cuts with demands by taxpayers and parents to make education more transparent and efficient.
“I think we can have meaningful impact on the education system and do it with available resources,” said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso.
“Districts had to make cuts in different ways and they’ll have to restore cuts in different ways,” Johnston said, and acknowledged that the $303 million in the proposal doesn’t completely offset the $1 billion in education cuts forced by the recession in recent years. “Let us begin the process of trying to make this investment.”
The package includes:
- $35 million for English-language learners, one of the most underfunded and fastest-growing groups in the state education system.
- $20 million for supports to address the growing number of struggling readers and meet Colorado’s literacy goal that every child leaves third grade reading proficiently.
- $30 million for full day kindergarten capital construction, $5 million for a new technology fund and $5 million for charter facilities through increased revenue from the marijuana monies.
- $100 million in one-time support to assist schools implement many of the pieces of landmark legislation passed over the last 5 years. While many believed changes could be accomplished within existing state revenue, we passed these policies just before the Great Recession. This funding helps ensure the state moves forward with successful implementation.
- $10 million in one-time money to move away from the outdated “single day count” toward an average student-count formula that rewards districts that enroll students after the current Oct. 1 count date.
- $5 million, one time, for a publicly accessible website to track how our districts and schools spend taxpayer dollars, increasing transparency.
- $13 million to support charter school facilities costs. Charter schools often have to pay out of pocket for their school facilities – these dollars help ensure the state’s per pupil funding that goes to all public schools will be spent on students rather than building costs.
- $80 million to go directly to districts to reduce recession-era budget cuts, which districts can use to eliminate late-start days, professional development reductions and other cutbacks.
As the Colorado economy recovers, lawmakers have an opportunity to restore many critical services that were cut during the recession. The Colorado Children’s Campaign believes children who were hardest hit by the recession should be top a priority for reinvestment. While we are still analyzing the 106 page proposal, the Children’s Campaign is excited to see legislation that looks at the needs of our students and prioritizes funding to help all kids succeed.
As the Colorado economy recovers, lawmakers have an opportunity to restore many critical services that were cut during the recession. The Colorado Children’s Campaign believes children who were hardest hit by the recession should be top a priority for reinvestment.
In the K-12 budget, targeting dollars toward research-based innovations and strategies that we know yield big results, such as full-day kindergarten and services for English language learners, is the best option for the limited new revenue lawmakers have to work with. In addition, legislators should dedicate the one-time dollars to one-time efforts to improve our education system. These innovations include switching over to a rolling student counting system and helping schools implement new standards, assessments and educator evaluations.
Last year, educators of all stripes agreed that our school finance formula is broken. Superintendents, teachers, school board members, business leaders, advocates and policy makers agreed on a landmark modernization of that formula—but it is still pending after the defeat of Amendment 66.
Pouring money back into the broken finance formula will only perpetuate the funding inequities we all agree are not doing enough to support students in communities ranging from Sheridan to Center. The Denver Post Editorial Board on Sunday wrote: “A problem with restoring reductions made during the recession is that it would pump money back into Colorado’s problematic school finance formula, which short-shrifts the neediest students.”
We agree, and look forward to seeing a bipartisan solution currently being negotiated by legislators. We’ll update you when that bill is introduced.
The defeat of Amendment 66 this week was a great disappointment to all of us at the Children’s Campaign and the many partners who worked so hard on this measure. While we have already begun reflecting on this outcome and how we can move forward to ensure a stronger education system for our students, we want to say thank you to everyone who joined the team fighting for school finance reform in Colorado. From those who attended the first meeting of the School Finance Partnership in our conference room more than two years ago to volunteers who worked up to election night to get out the vote, we extend our heartfelt gratitude.
While voters rejected the funding mechanism put forward by Amendment 66, no one fought against the vision. Our commitment to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they live is undeterred. How we achieve that vision in light of the result of Tuesday’s election requires collaboration, time and considered thought.
“We are inspired by the words of Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier, who reminds us about the importance of fortitude and determination in moving the world,” Children’s Campaign President and CEO Chris Watney said. “We look forward to continuing this work together with you.”
The Colorado Commits to Kids campaign is underway to ensure Colorado has the strongest education system in the nation. This November we will have the opportunity to invest in the accountable, innovative and equitable system to support all Colorado students. This is no easy task, it will take all of us to fulfill Colorado’s commitment to our next generation of leaders. Help spread the word about the Colorado Commits to Kids ballot campaign. Download factsheets, join the media action squad, or sign up to volunteer for door knocking, phone banking and other opportunities. You can also donate to the campaign.
Out of everything Colorado does, one of the most important is investing in a high-quality education for our kids. We need to make a commitment to the next generation to reduce class sizes, to get the best teachers into classrooms and to provide more modern and technologically advanced classrooms. A high-quality education system will give Colorado—and our children—the opportunity to be successful. Click here to learn more about what the Colorado Commits to Kids initiative would do.
Supporters of the ballot measure to increase investment in Colorado’s public education system this week turned in more than 160,000 signatures of Colorado voters—nearly double the number needed to send a finance measure to the ballot this November. The Colorado Commits to Kids Campaign delivered the signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to be verified within the next 30 days.
Please join Children’s Campaign staff and other supporters at the official ballot campaign launch at 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15 at Green Mountain High School, 13175 W. Green Mountain Dr. Lakewood, CO 80228. Gov. John Hickenlooper, teachers, students and other education advocates are scheduled to speak about the importance of this measure to our schools and kids.
This fall, Coloradans will have the opportunity to invest in quality early childhood initiatives in a significant way. New national polling results show that voter support for such investments are broad and bipartisan. A poll released this week by The First Five Years Fund shows that 70 percent of Americans surveyed favored providing all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds with voluntary access to high-quality preschool programs. They also favored making more early education and child care programs available for infants and toddlers and increasing access to home visiting and parent education programs for families.
The survey found support for those investments was shared by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. Ensuring children get a strong start in life was seen as an important national priority by 86 percent of respondents—second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. Voters also say the country is not doing enough on this issue, with 70 percent saying it is an area in which we need to “do more” and that the time is now to invest in children.
“I am very encouraged by these results,” said Chris Watney, Children’s Campaign President and CEO. “Voters clearly recognize the need for, and benefits of, quality early childhood experiences. Most importantly, there is widespread public support for immediate action on early childhood issues. Voters will have that opportunity to support early childhood with the school funding measure on the ballot this fall.”
In Colorado, the fall school funding ballot measure, currently Initiative 22, will include significant early childhood investments, including:
- Removing the Cap on Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) slots: Currently, not all children eligible for CPP can enroll because of a limit on the number of available slots. A yes vote for the ballot measure is a yes vote for allowing all at-risk 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to have access to preschool. As many as 25,500 additional Colorado kids could enroll, making it the single biggest expansion of access to early childhood opportunities in the history of the state.
- Paying for Full-day Kindergarten: The state currently pays for just more than a half-day of quality education for each Colorado kindergartener. This leaves districts to cobble together other funds, charge parents tuition or raise local mills to pay for full-day kindergarten. A yes vote on the ballot measure would be a vote for covering the full cost of kindergarten for every family that chooses to enroll their child. Not only would this provide access for many families without charging tuition, it would also free up locally-raised dollars for other early childhood investments or other needs.
- Assisting Districts in Meeting Early Childhood Facility Needs: A yes vote on the ballot measure is a yesvote for helping local districts add or improve building space to meet the needs of newly-enrolled preschool and kindergarten students. This capacity-building effort will be done in conjunction with local communities and include an assessment of existing coverage (in both community-based and public school settings for preschool) and local demand for access to early childhood education.
Learn more about Colorado’s opportunity this fall to make a significant investment in quality early childhood education and full-day kindergarten by supporting the Colorado Commits to Kids Coalition’s efforts to pass an education funding ballot measure this fall.