As the sun rose over the Capitol April 22, we had 12 days remaining to finish up the session. The backlog of bills facing the Legislature was daunting. In my seven years in the Legislature (2013 – present) the total number of bills has been 613, 621, 682, 685, 681+, 720+ and only 587 this session.
I mention this because 296 (just over 50 percent) of the bills still required legislative action on Monday; smallest number of bills, biggest backlog.
What are the chances of thoughtful deliberation when 50 percent of all the bills introduced this session have to be addressed in the last 12 days (10 percent) of the session? I would say slim and none, and slim is headed out of town.
So, where were all those bills as of the 22nd? A little bit of everywhere: 265 were done, 127 were sitting in the House, 78 were sitting in the Senate, 41 Senate bills waiting in the House and 50 House bills waiting in the Senate.
Debates sometimes lasted late into the night (3:30 a.m. one night). Democratic leadership had created a logjam. The challenge for them has been like a game of “Pick Up Sticks.” How do you gently maneuver a non-contentious bill out of the pile without causing an avalanche of debate over contested bills? Tight logjam plus tight schedule equals short tempers and long nights.
One of the sticks pulled from the pile was SB 19-246 (Concerning the Financing of Public Schools). In last week’s edition I shared the battle taking place over the $99 million of discovered unappropriated funds.
The Senate battled over the funds and sent the House a bill that increases per pupil funding by $182.76, allocates $20 million to rural schools, reduces the “Negative Factor” by $100 million, adds $22 million to special education and puts $40 million into the State Education Fund reserve for next year.
When you include funding for full-day kindergarten, school safety and other programs, this School Finance Bill is indeed what Sen. Sonnenberg called “The best School Finance Bill I have seen in 13 years.” Rep. Mc-Lachlan and I got it through House Education Committee 13-0.
Another unanimous vote out of the House Education Committee was on SB 19-199 (Reorganization of the Read Act). Rep. McCluskie (D – Summit Co.) and I are the House sponsors. The original intent of the READ Act was to have every student reading at grade level by the third grade.
The program has fallen far short of its goal. In 2018, the results of the CMAS (Colorado Measures of Academic Success) indicated that 59.6 percent of all third graders were not proficient in reading; that’s six out of 10 students
The CMAS results have prompted me to launch my “Where’s the Outrage?” campaign here at the Capitol.
Reading scores are not the only challenges we face as revealed in CMAS scores. Fourth grade social studies scores indicated 77.6 percent did not meet expectations; fifth grade science, 64.5 percent did not meet expectations; excepting the gifted and talented, 64.2 percent of third graders did not meet expectations in math.
Why do we keep adding educational programs in our schools when we have so much work to do in reading, science and math? Again I ask, “Where is the outrage?”
How important is the ability to read? I am glad you asked.
Third graders who cannot read are four times more likely to drop out of high school; the rate is doubled for blacks and Hispanics.
What happens when students who cannot read grow up? Seven out of every 10 prison inmates cannot read above a fourth grade level.
This infamous “School To Prison Pipeline” issue we keep hearing about is less about cops in school and more about kids learning to read. High school dropouts are not eligible for 90 percent of the jobs in our society, and dropouts make up nearly 50 percent of all heads-of households on welfare.
We do not have a living wage problem; we have a “Read To Succeed” problem. If people cannot read, they cannot succeed.
My bill to fully fund kindergarten (HB 19-1262) passed the Senate Friday morning unanimously on a 35-0 vote. My six-year quest for funding kindergarten is nearing an end.
There is little time remaining to schedule a visit to the Golden Dome during the legislative session. I highly recommend it; it’s such a great experience. Remember, it is never too late to get involved. Just give us call at 303-866-2747 or send me an e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.