This past week was Supplemental Week at the Capitol. Supplementals are supposed to be the final true-up for last year’s budget. Simply stated, the Joint Budget Committee makes recommendations for every department’s budget to balance said budget for the prior fiscal year.
There are always a few differences of opinion over what various departments spent, but this year we had a major conflict.
Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) has been on a multi-year prison reform mission. She was able to include a supplemental bill that would open two towers in Colorado State Prison II and fund a study to close private prisons across the state.
CSP II is the new solitary confinement prison in Canon City that was only open two years due to a court ruling banning solitary confinement. Herod has been attempting to close private prisons for some time, so a study with a predetermined outcome is an easy way to get data to support her efforts.
The good news for my district would be to get CSP II back in operation as a non-solitary confinement facility, creating job opportunities in the Canon City area.
The bad news for rural Colorado is the closing of private prisons would devastate communities such as Ordway, Limon, Sterling and others. I checked with my JBC member and verified that we could run a separate bill to re-open CSP II without the private prison study.
As a result, I voted against the bill. The bill passed on a straight party line vote. It appears CSP II will open and the state will move toward destroying the economies of some rural Colorado communities by closing their prisons.
It’s another example of urban representatives ignoring the needs of rural Colorado. Surprise, surprise.
I actually experienced a real surprise in the House Education Committee last week. I had five bills in the HEC and all of them passed; that was not the surprise.
The surprise was, after all my hard work with home schoolers on one of those bills, all my Republican committee members voted against the bill.
In a slightly heated discussion following the vote, I pointed out to them that they are always pounding the drum for choice (and I agree with choice).
However, when they had a chance to vote for a bill that promoted informed choice, they voted against it. Lesson learned: They support choice only when it agrees with their choice.
Another surprise from last week came from information distributed by the Colorado Children’s Campaign. With all the battles going on at the Federal level concerning illegal immigrants, folks just naturally assume the majority of immigrant children in Colorado are probably illegal as well.
Because of my background, I am concerned about the children in our schools. Here are some interesting facts about Colorado’s immigrant children according to the CCC’s report:
1) Among Colorado kids in immigrant families, nine out of 10 are U.S. citizens.
2) 40 percent live with a parent who is not a U.S. citizen.
3) 96 percent live with parents who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years.
On another topic, I continue to wage my battle over Colorado Measure of Academic Success test scores.
My “Where’s the outrage?” campaign is based on the fact that 58.7 percent of our third graders did not score proficient on the 2019 CMAS language arts exam and 59 percent were not proficient in math.
In a 2017 poll, 77 percent of parents say their child is getting a good education. For the second year in a row, nine in 10 parents believe their child is at or above grade level in reading and math. And here is the best one: two-thirds of all parents believe their child is above average academically; how does that work?
I am running several bills this year addressing school readiness for young children. If students show up for school already behind, how can we expect them to catch up when their school ready classmates continue to move ahead? It gets back to the aforementioned informed choice issue. I firmly believe parents and caregivers will make the best choices for their children if they receive as much good information on school readiness as possible.
Anyone can make a choice; an informed choice takes a little research.