On the first day of Colorado’s 2020 legislative session, Republican members of the House and Senate announced a wide-ranging bill package seeking to reform parts of the state’s education system.
The package of 25 bills are part of an agenda Republicans are calling #trustEDco, with the slogan “Trust Parents. Trust Teachers. Trust Students.” Several of the bills were filed on Wednesday, while others will be filed later in the session.
Since Republicans are working as the minority in both chambers of the state legislature, their agenda focuses on several specific “tweaks” to policies and new programs, they said. The bills have to do with school choice, school safety, curriculum transparency, various tax credits and savings accounts, and teacher bonuses, among other issues.
“We’re looking for ways to make things work better,” Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said at a Wednesday press conference announcing the agenda.
“We’re not here to ask taxpayers to give us more money … let’s make better use of the resources that we have,” Holbert added.
As part of the agenda, Republicans are hoping to boost the pay of teachers in the state via performance bonuses, since state lawmakers cannot set teacher salaries.
Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, is sponsoring a bill that would provide bonuses for effective teachers, allocating funds to “go into the pockets, into the paychecks of the teachers who we know are highly effective,” he said.
Another bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, would offer financial incentives to help retain effective teachers who work in schools that are low-performing.
Senate Bill 20-050, sponsored by Sen. Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, would offer an income tax credit ranging from $250 to $750 for teachers to use on supplies.
Other bills deal with bolstering school safety and help prevent bullying.
“If you don’t feel safe in your school, it’s going to be really hard to get a good education,” said House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, who’s sponsoring a bill to create “child safety accounts” for students who are bullied, allowing them to use their public school funding to pay for private school tuition.
Another bill by Woodward and Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, would offer a stipend to bullied students to cover costs for alternative forms of transportation to get to school.
Senate Bill 20-016, sponsored by Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, would require school districts to notify parents if a school employee is found to have provided a student with drugs or alcohol.
Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is sponsoring legislation to create a pilot program that would allocate $6 million from the general fund for grants that would allow school districts to buy emergency silent duress alarm systems for school buses.
Luke Ragland, president of Ready Colorado, a conservative school choice group, called the GOP’s agenda “a really bold plan to prioritize students in our education system and long-term outcomes. It’s one of the most aggressive and bold plans I think I’ve ever seen in the Capitol.”
“The idea that we can just pour more money into the existing system and that it will benefit teachers or students is a bad idea,” he added.