Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Senate Gives Quick Approval to First Bill of Session; Education Measure Supports State's Application for Federal Grant

The senate moved quickly today, on the first day of the 2010 legislative session, to enact a bill deemed critical to the state's effort to obtain federal dollars to support reform of the public school system.

SB 36, sponsored by freshman Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, gained preliminary approval on a 30-5 vote.

The bill would authorize efforts to connect information about student academic achievement in K-12 schools with Colorado's teacher preparation programs in an effort to determine which of those programs, and which of their methods, are working well.

"The goal for this is to help gather data for teacher and principal preparation program, to know how their graduates have done in their first three years," Johnston said. "We track their mobility, we track their placement, we track their retention."

"The idea is, once we do that, we can start to identify the really successful teacher and principal preparation programs," he continued.

The program will include every licensed teacher and principal in the state.

The bill is needed to support Colorado's effort to obtain money through the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" education reform program. The state's application is due next Tuesday and could result in an infusion of as much as several hundred million dollars.

"It will help us show us the areas where we are doing a good job," Johnston said. "It will give us some opportunities to improve by showing what the successful programs are doing."

The federal Department of Education has said it will give the most weight to aspects of state education programs that are focused on recruiting, training and retaining effective educators.

The bill must gain final approval in the Senate, and be approved by the House, before heading to Gov. Bill Ritter.

Ritter must sign it by Friday if it is to be cited as a state law in support of Colorado's "Race to the Top" application.

Senators defeated an amendment that would have required the cost of the program to be paid solely by private gifts, grants and donations and not with federal education appropriations to the state.