Tenure bill keeps moving in Legislature

The Colorado Senate approved Senate Bill 191 on second reading shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, helping the education- and tenure-reform bill take one more step forward.

Grand Junction Republican Sen. Josh Penry threw his support behind the bill, telling his fellow legislators the bill’s provision that a teacher must be deemed inefficient in evaluations for three consecutive years before their tenured status could be removed is time enough when student success is at stake.

“Three years is too much, but this bill is a move in the right direction,” Penry said.

The bill lays out steps for strengthening teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, and teachers would not be granted tenured status until efficient ratings on evaluations were attained for three consecutive years.

A string of amendments led senators to spend nearly four hours on the bill Thursday. Among the amendments that passed were one calling for parental involvement to be reflected in evaluations and one allowing school and district accountability committees to weigh in on teacher and principal development plans.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Arvada, proposed several amendments and provided the sole vote against the bill when it was in the Senate Education Committee last week. One of the amendments proposed cutting out what many considered to be the crux of the bill, the provision that puts a tenured teacher back on probationary status if the teacher doesn’t show improvement after being deemed inefficient two years in a row.

“If you remove this, everyone will support this. The civil war will end,” Hudak said.

The amendment failed.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, told Senate members they shouldn’t underestimate how much the bill would change education. He said one of his biggest fears about the bill is it’s “asking a lot, but we’re not giving a lot.”

Helping allay that fear is a timeline that allows years for public comment, defining efficiency and testing the waters before statewide implementation.

“I think the good of this far outweighs the bad,” Heath said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, because we have time to change it.”

The bill will have to pass the House and face a third reading in the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

Thursday afternoon, Senate Education Committee members voted 8-0 to send Senate Bill 3 to the Senate floor and voted 5-3 to send Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 to the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Bill 3 would loosen restraints on some college and university practices. Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 would place a measure on a future ballot asking Colorado voters to let the Legislature increase taxes for education funding through statute instead of going to voters each time it decides to increase revenues for education for students in preschool to age 20.


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