By Alyssa Burghardt and Kristin Edgar

The 2014 Colorado legislative session, which ended on May 7, resulted in several notable pieces of proposed education legislation, which are highlighted below.

School Finance

Following the failure of Amendment 66 to pass last year, legislators were busy this session debating how K-12 schools would be funded. A combination of bills—including the School Finance Act, Student Success Act and the Colorado FY 2014-2015 state budget—that have been signed into law will increase state and local funding for schools.

School funding was tied up in H.B. 14-1292 (the Student Success Act) and H.B. 14-1298 (the School Finance Act).

The Student Success Act reduces the $1 billion deficit known as the “negative factor” by $110 million. Additionally, the Student Success Act provides funding for literacy programs and charter school facilities and contains transparency requirements that would allow the public to know how K-12 funds are being used.

A compromised version of the School Finance Act will leave about $660 million in the State Education Fund. The bill increases funding for English language learner programs by $27 million and slightly increases what the state will pay for kindergarten students. The bill also contains a $17 million increase for at-risk preschool and kindergarten students.

What the school funding package means to school districts:

Districts will see an increase in per pupil funding for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

 

Other Key Issues

Standardized Testing:

Lastly, H.B. 14-1202, now in the hands of the governor, was created to commission a 15-member taskforce to study and make recommendations on the state testing system to the 2015 legislature.

What this means for school districts:

Nothing at the moment.  However, the study may produce recommendations that will help alleviate the costs and burdens of testing that Districts experience.

 

Executive Sessions

S.B. 14-182, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, requires board meeting minutes to reflect the amount of time that the board spent in discussing a topic in executive session.

What this means for school districts:

Boards of education need to modify their meeting procedures to ensure that the start and end time of each executive session topic is reflected in the meeting minutes.

 

Online Education

HB 14-1382, which has been sent to the governor, creates a task force to study and recommend authorizer standard for multi-district online school authorizers.

What this means for school districts:

Nothing right now.  However, as noted in the bill, the state intends to change its practice for multi-district online schools and will start authorizing multi-district online school authorizers rather than the multi-district online schools themselves based on the recommendations of the task force.

 

Data Privacy

HB 14-1294 would require the Colorado Department of Education to publish an inventory of student data currently in the student data system in accordance with federal privacy laws and related mandates. It also requires the CDE to develop a data security plan and prohibits the department from providing student data to organizations or agencies outside the state.

The bill passed both the House and Senate is also in the hands of the governor.

What this means for school districts:

Nothing at this time, though this bill signals that future data privacy legislation is possible and that such legislation is likely to be aimed at school districts rather than CDE. 

 

Research Retrieval Fees for CORA Requests

HB 14-1193, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, limits the fees that records custodians may charge for research and retrieval of documents in response to a CORA request.  The first hour of research and retrieval must be provided at no cost to the requester and fees for research and retrieval of records beyond the first hour are limited to $30.00 per hour as adjusted for inflation every five years.  Finally, the bill requires records custodians to post fees and policies concerning research and retrieval of documents in order to charge such fees.

What this means for school districts:

Districts will need to review and, if necessary, revise their records policies to ensure that they are consistent with this law.

 

Teacher Evaluations

In March, the Senate introduced S.B. 14-165, a bill that would allow districts to determine whether or not to use student growth as a factor for teacher evaluations in the 2014-15 school year.

Under evaluation law S.B. 10-191, passed in 2010, the 2014-15 school year will be the first year that a final rating of “partially effective” or “ineffective” will be considered in the loss of non-probationary status after two consecutive years of similar ratings. In accordance with the evaluation system created under S.B. 10-191, half of evaluations are to be based on student academic growth. Lawmakers sought to postpone this provision of S.B. 10-191 because the results of several standardized tests planned for 2015 will not be available until after the school year is over.

S.B. 14-165 passed in both the House and Senate in April and is now in the hands of the governor.

What this means for school districts:

School districts will have flexibility during the 2014-2015 school year in how much to base teacher evaluations on student growth.

 

If you would like more information on any of the topics mentioned above, please contact Alyssa Burghardt, the Education Section Head, and Kristin Edgar, a school law specialist, at 303-443-8010 or [email protected] and [email protected].