Schools chief: Keep tenure bill strong

State commissioner likes legislation, but is concerned about its expense

During a visit Tuesday to Grand Junction, Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones cautioned against weakening a tenure bill facing the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 191 would task the Colorado Board of Education with redefining standards for teacher and principal effectiveness evaluations and have those evaluations determine which teachers can keep or get tenure.

Jones said the bill needs to remain strong instead of being whittled down by amendments in order to keep from losing Republican votes. He’s a fan of the bill, he said, but he would like to know how much it will cost to implement.

“It’s a legitimate concern to say, ‘Will the state have the money to cover this, or will it be an unfunded mandate?’ ” Jones said.

Jones attended a Western Slope Superintendents Conference on Tuesday at Two Rivers Convention Center and discussed Senate Bill 191 and the state’s second attempt at federal Race to the Top education-reform funding. Tennessee and Delaware won Race to the Top dollars in the first round of awards. Colorado is one of several states competing for money in the second and final round. Winners of the second round should be announced in September.

Tenure reform like that laid out in Senate Bill 191 may have “tremendous impact” on the state’s chances of getting Race to the Top funding, Jones said. Improving teacher and principal effectiveness is one of the key commitments that states must demonstrate in Race to the Top applications.

Based on comments from officials who reviewed the state’s first Race to the Top application, Jones said Colorado’s second application will attempt to better explain how education and reform can and will work.

“We need to do a better job of telling Colorado stories,” Jones said.


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