STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
|Time:||01:35 PM to 04:53 PM|
|This Meeting was called to order by|
|This Report was prepared by|
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
|Amended, Referred to Appropriations|
Amended, Referred to Appropriations
01:35 PM -- House Bill 09-1312
Senator Schwartz, co-prime sponsor of House Bill 09-1312, presented her bill to the committee. The bill creates the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools Loan Program in the Governor's Energy Office. Senator Schwartz explained the need for the bill, discussing energy costs that are faced by schools and school districts. Senator Schwartz explained how the loan program would be administered.
Senator Romer, co-prime sponsor of the bill, talked about the role of the State Treasurer in the loan program.
The bill sponsors responded to questions from the committee. Senator Hudak asked for information about how the loan program would be funded, asking for reassurance that the program would not damage the Public School Fund (Permanent Fund) in any way. Senator Hudak also asked about up-front costs related to purchasing energy saving equipment. Senator Romer responded to Senator Hudak's questions, talking about the performance of the Permanent Fund in the current economic climate. He said the bill fits the use of the Permanent Fund by benefitting schools through teaching them to lower their energy bills. Senator Schwartz responded to the questions as well, providing information about the funding of the "Building Excellent Schools Today" (BEST) program, which uses Permanent Fund moneys as well. She explained that the loan program would involve a rigorous financial analysis. Conversation on these issues ensued.
Committee questions for the bill sponsors continued, with a question from Senator Scheffel about how the loan program in the bill compares with what is available in the private sector. Senator Romer responded, saying the credit crunch is impacting the availability of funds and that this program is a legitimate use of state dollars. Conversation between Senator Scheffel and Senator Romer continued, with Senator Scheffel remarking that many local banks would be happy to have this business. Senator Scheffel suggested a sunset date. Senator Schwartz responded to Senator Scheffel's comments as well, saying there will be a residual opportunity for banks as the program will not meet all schools' needs.
Senator King asked if the bill is the first time a loan program has been established using Permanent Fund moneys. Senator Schwartz said the program reflects a priority of allowing schools to function in a more efficient manner. Senator Romer said there have been other loan programs using Permanent Fund moneys, but those programs have not been used. He talked about the difficulty in getting energy efficiency loans from banks. Senator King next asked about the fee language in the bill. Senator Schwartz responded. Senator King asked about the bill's requirements and whether the bill would allow charter schools or small school districts to participate. Senator Schwartz responded, saying small districts can put teams together with local utilities to work on renewable energy issues. Senator Romer commented that including BOCES or the State Charter School Institute might make the bill more user-friendly.
Senator Heath asked about the amount of moneys that would be available under the loan program.
The following persons testified:
02:06 PM -- Mary Wickersham, representing the Office of the State Treasurer, testified in support of the bill. She spoke to earlier committee questions, including Senator King's question about inclusion of charter schools. She said that the language of the State Constitution limits it to loans to school districts, but noted that there is nothing prohibiting the district from giving money to a charter school. She responded to Senator Hudak's questions about the bill's impact on the Permanent Fund. Ms. Wickersham talked about constitutional requirements around investment losses, discussing the provisions of the State Constitution. Conversation between Senator Hudak and Ms. Wickersham ensued.
Ms. Wickersham continued, answering Senator King's earlier question about fees under the bill. She said there is no expectation at the current time that a fee will have to be assessed. She responded to a question from Senator Scheffel about whether the loans would be offered below market value. Conversation between Senator Scheffel and Ms. Wickersham on this issue ensued. She responded to additional questions from Senator Hudak about the benefits of the bill.
Senator Heath talked about how the Boulder Valley School District might use funds provided under the program. Ms. Wickersham talked about the State Treasurer's care of the Permanent Fund. Senator Scheffel asked about how much would be lent under the program, asking specifically about the $2 million identified in the fiscal note. Ms. Wickersham responded, explaining that the fiscal note is based on an estimate of the loans that might be made. Senator Hudak asked if a cap on the amount of loans would be considered. Senator Romer responded as did Ms. Wickersham.
Senator Schwartz spoke to Senator Hudak's questions as well. Senator Romer asked whether the bill precludes the State Treasurer from working with a bank. Ms. Wickersham said there are no such restrictions in the bill. Senator Spence talked about the relationship between banks and school districts in small- and medium-sized communities and asked whether the bill would affect that relationship. Ms. Wickersham responded to these comments. Senator Romer and Senator Schwartz spoke to the issues raised by Senator Spence as well.
02:38 PM -- Tim Guiterman, representing the Governor's Energy Office, testified in support of the bill. He explained how the program would work and responded to questions from the committee.
02:45 PM -- Jenifer Saltzman, representing the Colorado Bankers Association and the Independent Bankers of Colorado, testified in opposition to the bill. She said her association opposes being in direct competition with the state in making loans. She responded to committee questions, including a question from Senator Scheffel about whether school districts are being denied loans for renewable energy projects. Senator King asked whether banks are in a position to make such loans in the current economic climate. Ms. Saltzman said there is money to lend in the state. Senator Romer commented on the testimony, saying many banks are not willing to lend money for these types of projects.
02:52 PM -- Erik Bowman, representing the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA), testified in support of the bill. He talked about job opportunities that would be created by projects funded through the loan program. He spoke to earlier committee questions about whether banks are financing these types of projects. Mr. Bowman talked about the value of energy produced through renewable means, speaking specifically to power purchase agreements and leases.
Senator Schwartz asked Mr. Bowman to talk about how districts could make money through net-metering. Mr. Bowman responded, talking about energy produced and about how energy savings will more than offset the loan payment amount. Mr. Bowman responded to questions from Senator Hudak about how the loan program will benefit school districts.
03:08 PM -- Deb Kleinman, representing the U.S. Green Building Council - Colorado Chapter, testified in support of the bill. She talked about energy costs faced by schools and about how schools can recoup their costs by using renewable energy. She talked about lessons for students related to the new energy economy and 21st century skills.
03:14 PM -- Benjamin Waters, representing the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, testified in support of the bill. Mr. Waters said the bill is another tool in the toolbox of the new energy economy and said it presents excellent educational opportunities for students.
03:16 PM -- Scott Groginsky, representing the Colorado Children's Campaign, testified in support of the bill. He responded to committee questions, saying the bill will not damage the Permanent Fund. Senator Spence asked Mr. Groginsky to comment on how the bill impacts school districts' relationships with their communities.
Senator Schwartz said she has emails from the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), the Colorado Education Association (CEA), and the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) in support of the bill. She provided closing comments to the bill. Senator Romer made closing comments as well. The committee discussed the testimony of the Colorado Bankers Association.
Committee discussion of the bill continued, with conversation around interest on the loans. Ms. Wickersham returned to the table to respond to questions about the interest.
Ms. Wickersham returned to the table to speak to an amendment proposed by Senator King to add charter schools to the bill.
The committee discussed Senator Spence's proposed amendment.
Senator Romer said he would consider adding private schools to the bill. Senator Schwartz said that adding private schools would be unconstitutional as Permanent Fund moneys can be used only for public education purposes.
|TIME: || 03:41:30 PM|
|MOTION:||Refer House Bill 09-1312, as amended, to the Committee on Appropriations. The motion passed on a 7-1 vote.|
Final YES: 7 NO: 1 EXC: 0 ABS: 0 FINAL ACTION: PASS
03:42 PM -- House Bill 09-1243
The committee took a brief recess.
The committee came back to order.
Senator Bacon, sponsor of House Bill 09-1243, presented his bill, concerning measures to raise the graduation rate in public high schools.
The following persons testified:
03:54 PM -- Matt Gianneschi, representing the Governor's Office, testified in support of the bill. Dr. Gianneschi said the bill is consistent with the Governor's agenda and is something the Governor has advocated for for several years.
03:57 PM -- Brian Brinkerhoff, representing Colorado Youth for a Change, testified in support of the bill. He talked about his organization and its dropout prevention and dropout recovery efforts.
03:58 PM -- Scott Groginsky, representing the Colorado Children's Campaign, testified in support of the bill. He talked about the number of students who do not graduate from high school and issues the high dropout rate causes. He said the bill puts into action research-based strategies. Mr. Groginsky talked about the efforts in five school districts, saying the bill would extend these efforts to districts all over the state. Mr. Groginsky responded to questions from the committee, including a question from Senator Hudak about funding sources for the program created in the bill. He noted that the Office of Dropout Prevention and Student Re-Engagement created in the bill would not go into operation until funding is received.
04:03 PM -- Richard Wenning, representing the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), testified in support of the bill. Mr. Wenning responded to committee questions, including a question from Senator King about the language in the bill addressing student dropout prevention and student engagement and re-engagement policies and strategies and how the bill works with other bills being considered on concurrent enrollment. Committee discussion about concurrent enrollment ensued.
Discussion with the witness continued with a question from Senator Scheffel about funding for the program and about data around why students drop out. Mr. Wenning said the bill focuses on known research-based strategies. He talked about funding, saying federal Title I funds might be used in high schools for the purposes of the bill. Senator Scheffel asked about the provision of the bill removing the requirement for mandatory expulsion of habitually disruptive students. Mr. Wenning responded, talking about the path from school to prison for some students, saying the bill moves toward finding ways to engage students who are crying out for help.
Senator Bacon commented on the provisions regarding habitually disruptive students, noting that the bill gives the prerogative to the school district in expelling students, providing more latitude to school districts. Senator King talked about alternatives to expulsion for disruptive students.
Senator Hudak asked how the work of the office created in the bill will be incorporated with the work done by the department under Senate Bill 09-163. Mr. Wenning responded.
04:20 PM -- Ken Seeley, representing the Partnership for Families and Children, testified in support of the bill. He talked about use of federal Title I funds. Mr. Seeley also talked about Colorado's high special education dropout rate. Senator Hudak commented on the testimony regarding special education dropouts, saying the U.S. Department of Education holds states accountable for the graduation rates of special education students.
04:24 PM -- Jennifer Dounay, representing the Education Commission of the States (ECS), testified. She described ECS and provided a handout on dropout prevention (Attachment B). She talked about what other states are doing to improve student graduation rates. She said the bill is in line with what other states are doing around dropout prevention. Ms. Dounay talked about distinctions made between a high school diploma and a GED.
04:33 PM -- Fred Franko, representing the Colorado After School Network, testified in support of the bill. He described the network. Mr. Franko talked about the impact of after school programs on dropout rates.
04:36 PM -- Janiece Mackey, representing Colorado Youth for a Change, testified in support of the bill. She talked about her work with students at risk of dropping out and responded to committee questions, including a question from Senator Hudak about the strategies she employs to get students back in school. She also talked about credit recovery for students that are returning after dropping out. Senator Spence mentioned the Life Skills program in Denver and asked about the program in Aurora. The witness talked about the specifics of the program for which she works. Ms. Mackey spoke on behalf of Laura Ramos, a student served by Ms. Mackey's program.
04:40 PM -- Judith Martinez, representing the CDE, offered to answer questions about the bill. Senator Spence asked how the CDE calculates dropout statistics and graduation rates for students who have re-entered school after dropping out. Conversation between Senator Spence and Ms. Martinez ensued around the challenges in calculating accurate dropout and graduation rates. Senator Hudak weighed in on the conversation as well, describing the work of the State Board of Education in this area and providing information about the graduation rate versus the completion rate.
Scott Groginsky returned to the table to speak to questions around dropout, graduation, and completion rates. Committee conversation with Ms. Martinez around these issues continued. Senator Bacon talked about challenges around calculating student success.
|TIME: || 04:52:16 PM|
|MOTION:||Refer House Bill 09-1243, as amended, to the Committee on Appropriations. The motion passed on a 7-0-1 vote.|
Final YES: 7 NO: 0 EXC: 1 ABS: 0 FINAL ACTION: PASS
The committee adjourned.