Last week marked a first for me in the 72nd General Assembly. On Monday, I was in the Governor’s Office for my first bill signing under the Polis Administration.

SB 19-069 (Non-Public School Teacher Development Programs) is now set to become law. Both public and non-public school teachers will now operate under the same guidelines.

The big news at the Capitol this past week was the Joint Budget Committee’s action to set aside $185 million to fully fund kindergarten. The kindergarten battle is one I have been fighting for years under the Golden Dome, and it appears as if we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Different chapters of the kindergarten story will appear in this column as the bill makes its way through the process. Having the state finally meet its obligation to fully fund kindergarten will free up over $2 million dollars for my school districts in HD 60.

Each year, the districts have had to fund the additional costs out of their General Fund budgets. Districts will have some additional dollars to put towards salaries, capital purchases, programs, etc. We just filed the bill on Friday, so it is a little early to count the chickens, but I can definitely hear them pecking.

Kindergarten is only one of several bills I am sponsoring that have not as yet shown up on the House calendar.

SB 19-137 (Extend The Colorado Student Leaders Institute), SB 19-179 (Enhance School Safety Incident Response Grant Program),  SB 19-183 (Alternate Procedure To Reorganize School Districts) and SB 19-190 (Teacher Preparation Program Support), will all be coming over from the Senate in the near future.

Another one of my late bills on its way over to the House is SB 19-199 (READ Act Implementation Measures).

The READ Act was passed in 2012 to ensure every child would be able to read by the third grade. The READ Act gives schools additional money ($231.37 million in the last five years) for struggling readers.

In 2013, the first year of implementation, 14.4 percent of the state’s K-3 students were identified with a “significant reading deficiency.”

By 2018, that percentage had grown to 15.5 percent. Nearly half of the state’s 178 school districts have seen the number of students with significant reading deficiencies worsen since the READ Act program was put into place.

Only 40 percent of third graders in the state are reading at grade level – barely up from 38 percent four years ago.

With 60 percent of our third graders not proficient in reading, it is rather obvious Colorado is experiencing a problem.

I signed on to SB 19-199 because what we are doing to address the reading challenges of our students is not working. The bill is creating some angst amongst school districts.

However, we all know that continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is a definition of insanity. A child who cannot read will become an adult in need. Hopefully, SB 19-199 will jump-start an ineffective program.

It seems like every week there is another contentious bill that rears its head to disrupt the chambers under the Golden Dome. This past week was no exception.

A bill to circumvent the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was filed. Senators Todd (D) and Priola (R), along with Speaker Becker (D) in the House, are sponsoring a bill that would allow a vote of the people to decide if the state can retain all excess revenues in the future.

If the state were running out of money, the bill would make more sense. However, even with the lowered revenue forecast, we have over a billion dollars in new money to spend this year.

We even have enough dollars to address our rising mental health needs, if legislators would only choose to do so. Going after TABOR is sure to cause another firestorm between the Ds and Rs.

To stay on top of the fun things happening at the Capitol, please feel free to call my office at 303-866-2747 or send me an e-mail: wilsonforhd60@gmail.com or james.wilson.house@state.co.us.

We are also able to schedule a visit to the Golden Dome if you would like to visit onsite.

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