Colorado’s education debate heated up on the House floor last week, as race, religion, partisanship, and even reproductive health entered discussion of a measure that aims to make lessons in American government and history more inclusive.
There’s been lots of activity on the education front in the last two weeks, with plenty more to come (think $$$). We’ll catch up on things in a bit. But first, Friday’s debate.
At issue: House Bill 1172 to add history and culture of Asian-Americans to other groups included in civil government lessons, as well as creating a task force to make recommendations on the curriculum.
Democrats amended the bill on the floor to include LGBT people among the groups whose contributions must be included in lessons. That list already includes American Indians, African-Americans, and Hispanic Americans.
Republican state Rep. Lori Saine, of Firestone, proposed an amendment to include people of Jewish heritage on the list. Democratic state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, who is Jewish, amended that to include teaching about all religious minorities.
“Jews are not the only religious minorities in this community,” said Michaelson Jenet, of Commerce City. “If we single out one religion over another religion, then we are putting the Jewish people again in a place where they can be targeted for anti-semitism.”
Countered Saine: “For our Jewish friends who are not religious, we’re wiping them out of the history book.”
The bill now includes teaching about all religious minorities.
Republicans also tried to amend the bill to include teaching that Republicans originally opposed slavery and that early feminist Margaret Sanger favored birth control as a way of limiting reproduction by racial minorities. Those efforts failed.
This type of drawn-out floor debate, with Republicans offering lots of doomed amendments on bills that have the votes to pass, have become common this session.
The House will take a final vote on HB 1172 Monday.
Here’s your update on other education legislation moving through the General Assembly.
Keep in mind that the big ticket items – the overall budget, school finance, and universal full-day kindergarten – are still to come.
Community Schools: The House gave initial approval to this measure with a minor amendment Friday. Once it gets final approval Monday, the Senate must approve the amendment before it goes to the governor. Proponents believe including a definition of community schools in statute would make it easier to get federal grants for programs such as social services, adult education, and other “wraparound” services beyond academics.
Discipline for young students: The full House will consider limiting circumstances when schools may expel or suspend students in grades two and below after the House Education Committee approve the measure.
Charter school funding: The House Education Committee defeated an effort to take back money from charter schools, in a bipartisan vote. The move pleased school choice advocates on the right and the left.
More marijuana money for school construction: The House Appropriations Committee is the next stop for this measure to take more than the originally promised $40 million annually from marijuana taxes to use for school repairs and construction.
Mid-year funding adjustments: The Joint Budget Committee is still taking back $77 million in K-12 funding because of higher-than-expected property tax revenues and lower-than-expected enrollment. But $12.9 million will remain in education instead of going to the general fund.
Closed meetings to discuss bargaining strategy: This bill, clarifying that school boards may discuss strategy for negotiating with unions in private, is slated for debate on the Senate floor. If approved there, it goes to the governor’s desk.
Interdistrict transportation of students: Gov. Jared Polis signed this measure on March 7. It removes a 2018 Republican amendment to a bill related to foster youth that allowed school districts to cross boundaries to provide transportation, even if the neighboring district objected. The law now returns to its previous position — that districts need the consent of their neighbors to provide transportation across district boundaries.
Several measures are still sitting in appropriations committees awaiting funding decisions.