Teacher bill still pending at Colorado Capitol
Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) – The fate of one of the most controversial bills of the legislative session will be decided in the final days.
The House is set to vote Tuesday on a proposal to evaluate teachers based on their students’ performance. Backers believe enough Democrats will join with Republicans to pass it.
Under the bill, teachers who are tenured now could lose job protections if their students don’t show academic progress for two straight years. The state’s largest teachers’ union, a key part of the Democratic base, opposes the bill.
It has particularly stirred up passions in the House, where teachers-turned-lawmakers see it as scapegoating of educators. They watched from the audience Monday as the House Appropriations Committee narrowly voted to back the bill and send it to the full House for a vote.
A Democratic supporter on the panel, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, broke down as he explained why he would vote yes. Ferrandino credited his parents, both teachers, with helping him overcome a learning disability but also recalled a seventh-grade teacher who told him he wasn’t smart enough to be in class because he couldn’t take timed tests.
The proposal comes as public schools are set to lose $365 million in funding, a 6.4 percent drop, forcing them to layoff teachers and support staff.
Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said more budget cuts are in store for schools next year. He said it will be hard to tell if poor student performance will be due to budget cuts, which could lead to larger class sizes, or the impact of teachers.
But Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Silverthorne, said the current system is failing students, with 50 percent of minority pupils dropping out of school.
If the House passes the bill, it would have to go back to the Senate to approve changes. That vote likely wouldn’t come until Wednesday, the session’s final day.
Gov. Bill Ritter supports the bill. State education officials believe its passage will help Colorado win $175 million for education reform in the second round of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition.
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