Colorado Department of Education Oversight Hearing
COMMITTEE ON JOINT EDUCATION
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01:33 PM -- Call to Order
Representative Merrifield, the chair, called the Joint House and Senate Education Committee to order.
01:34 PM -- Colorado Department of Education Oversight Hearing
Bob Schaffer, member of the State Board of Education (SBE), introduced the board members to the committee.
Commissioner Dwight Jones, Colorado Department of Education, provided a progress report on the Forward Thinking document, which is the guiding document of the state board goals. Mr. Jones noted that the department would be updating the committee on legislation implementation and the growth model. Commissioner Jones also mentioned the accreditation process in the context of Senate Bill 08-212, regarding preschool to postsecondary alignment.
Commissioner Jones continued his remarks, discussing proposed changes in licensure process, specifically to shorten the processing time from 12 - 14 weeks to 2 - 4 weeks. He also discussed the progress on the implementation of Senate Bill 08-130, regarding innovation schools and school districts, House Bill 08-1370, regarding the school counselor corps, Senate Bill 08-038, regarding BOCES realignment, and House Bill 08-1386, regarding the school leadership academy,
Commissioner Jones continued updating committee members on the implementation of certain legislation that was passed in the 2008 legislative session. Representative Merrifield asked an update for the fundraising progress for House Bill 08-1386, and offered his continued support to raising funding for the program. Commissioner Jones reviewed the implementation of House Bill 08-1204, regarding facility schools, House Bill 08-1168, regarding financial literacy standards, House Bill 08-1335, regarding capital construction assistance for schools (also known as the BEST Bill), and House Bill 1384, regarding teacher certification standards.
Representative Merrifield asked Commissioner Jones if the department has discussed with the Joint Budget Committee about the funding status for House Bill 08-1335. Commissioner Jones asked Vody Herrmann to come to the witness table to answer the question. Ms. Herrmann explained that the money made available from the public school land trust may need to be used for other things than the BEST bill implementation.
Mr. Schaffer reviewed the SBE legislative priorities with committee members. Elaine Gantz Berman, member of the SBE, discussed state rules adopted regarding healthy beverages, sodas and diet sodas are banned. Ms. Berman explained that there has been some pushback from school districts on the mandate. Ms. Berman noted that the legislative priorities are grouped into several categories. Ms. Berman stated that she is looking forward to working with the committee this legislative session.
Randy DeHoff, member of the SBE, discussed funding issues, including per pupil operating revenue (PPOR), and the state trust lands revenue. Mr. DeHoff noted that one priority of the board is to preserve the revenue coming from the school trust lands, and to expand it as much as possible. He explained that this revenue will be used to fund a great deal of needs for K-12 education during the economic downturn. Senator Hudak asked if the committee members were going to get a copy of the priorities. Mr. Schaffer continued the SBE remarks, and shared the handout of priorities with committee (Attachment A).
Mr. Schaffer discussed other activities of the board, including disciplinary action hearings, rule promulgation, and charter authority hearings. Mr. Schaffer also noted that the board's expenditures are now available to the public on its website, and that the board is taking more consideration on what is spent and deemed as necessary board expenditures. Commissioner Jones echoed his remarks from Mr. Schaffer that the department looks forward to working with the committee members, and specifically on the accountability bill, which will be sponsored by Senators Hudak and King. Commissioner Jones reviewed the key provisions of the accountability bill with committee members.
Senator Spence asked about fiscal impacts on local school districts, in regards to Senate Bill 08-212, specifically on the department's process on implementing the audit and cost study provisions of the bill. Senator Spence also expressed about the local burden on school nutrition rules. Commissioner Jones explained that the cost study has not been moved forward yet, but that there have been conversations on the cost study, and that a contract would be awarded in September 2009 to complete that study.
Senator King asked about special education funding, specifically the tiered model of funding. Senator Hudak explained that the new model is working, but underfunded. Senator King clarified he wanted to know about moving money from one tier to underfund more evenly. Commissioner Jones stated he would bring a response back to the committee. Representative Solano asked what the total impact of the underfunded mandate of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is on the state. Commissioner Jones stated that no financial analysis such as this one has been completed. Representative Solano asked if that information is available from state records. Mr. Schaffer explained that it is, but it is difficult to find the data, but the cost is considerable.
Representative Solano clarified that no statewide analysis has been completed, nor for the school district cost, and in light of the NCLB reauthorization, states need data to back up the cost to the state. Mr. DeHoff stated that the biggest cost to states is the compliance piece of NCLB, which does not improve student achievement, and that this has been the case before NCLB, as part of other federal laws. Senator Heath asked if there is any indication that stimulus dollars will provide assistance to mitigate the funding issues facing the state. Commissioner Jones stated that the department is hopeful that $415 million will be approved in the stimulus package for Title I funding.
Representative Solano stated that a meaningful data set is imperative to show the federal delegation that there is a problem with the unfunded mandate for NCLB. Ms. Berman stated that the SBE has discussions about being proactive about NCLB reauthorization. Representative Merrifield stated that he will be meeting with the education providers of Obama, about what the Colorado position and priorities on NCLB. The committee concluded its discussion with the state board of education, and Dr. Richard Wenning, Colorado Department of Education, presented on the Colorado Growth Model.