Note: Legislation related to state, district, or school programs, policies, and procedures can be found here in the Education section. The School Finance section in the GOVERNMENT section deals with the financing of public schools (including charter schools).

POSITION IN BRIEF:
Support of a Pre-Kindergarten through 12 (Pre-K-12) public education system in which a balanced curriculum of humanities, arts and sciences leads to life-long learning for all students. Support of a stronger leadership role for the Colorado Department of Education to promote educational improvements and standards for early childhood education.

POSITION: (Revised 1995)
The League believes:

  • The state legislature may establish base level expectations in the areas of discipline and academic achievement in order to insure consistency and equity across the state.
  • The Colorado Board of Education should bear primary responsibility for establishing general attendance requirements, required levels of academic achievement and graduation requirements.
  • The Colorado Board of Education should establish teacher certification/licensing requirements based on the recommendations of the Colorado Department of Education.
  • The local school districts should bear the primary responsibilities for establishing discipline policies, setting district calendars, determining the use of local district-owned facilities and equipment, and for developing curriculum and selecting instructional materials. Local districts retain the right to exceed minimum standards set by state-level entities.
  • Education in the humanities, arts and sciences should include, but not be limited to, instruction in language arts, social sciences, math, science, foreign language, music, art, physical education and health.
  • Essential components of the educational system, for which user fees may sometimes be appropriate on a sliding scale, include but are not limited to pre-school, extra-curricular activities, and before- and after-school care.
  • The education of a young child is a shared responsibility. The school must provide a safe environment where learning can and does happen. We support measures which promote, help and encourage families to prepare students to meet academic standards. Attendance and discipline are essential to learning success.
  • In equalizing educational opportunity; equity for students, taxpayers and school districts; programs for students with special needs; incentives for efficiency and effectiveness including cooperation among school districts; and assuring the availability of adequate facilities.
  • In a Colorado Department of Education that would take a stronger leadership role to provide better service and which, through the use of persuasion and incentives, would encourage educational improvement.
    In 1995 LWVCO Convention adopted a consensus about the role of the State of Colorado in determining policies and standards for Pre-K-12 education. The consensus supported the establishment and enforcement of quality standards for early childhood care and education programs including nutrition, health and safety, equipment and physical safety, teacher qualifications and licensing, program and curriculum. The consensus reaffirmed League’s position that all children should be in a school by the age of six.

HISTORY
Since state authorization of charter schools in 1994, the League has supported keeping charter school legislation focused on innovation and serving the at-risk population. While the League does not have a specific position on charter schools, we have taken positions on related bills based on efficiency, equity and local control.

Beginning in 1997, the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) was designed to provide a snapshot of how well Colorado students were achieving the model content standards in reading, writing, math and science adopted in 1995. In 2007 LWVCO supported modifications, including the development of a statistical model to analyze individual students’ progress. In 2008 LWVCO supported adjustments to the procedure for calculating long-term academic growth. With the adoption of new Colorado Academic Standards starting in 2009, CSAP was superseded by the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) and then in 2014 the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS).
In 2000 the General Assembly adopted a controversial major educational reform measure, opposed by the League. This bill, among other provisions, provided for grading schools based on the student results on the CSAP tests plus ACT tests to be given to all 11th graders. It also required the conversion of “failing” schools into independent charter schools operated by private groups. In the 2001 session, some modifications were approved including substituting ratings for letter grades.

LWVUS adopted a position opposing tax credits for private schools in 1978. In 2003 LWVCO opposed passage of the Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program. It would have established the first K-12 voucher program in the country. The bill mandated that school districts with eight or more schools graded Low or Unsatisfactory offer publicly funded vouchers to any low-income students who had scored Unsatisfactory on CSAP tests. Opponents filed suit, citing language in the Colorado Constitution regarding local control of schools and the prohibition of public financial aid to religious institutions. On June 28, 2004, the Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, upheld a district court decision striking down the pilot program as unconstitutional. The Court found that control of local funds is essential to local control of schools. The Court did not address the other issues raised by plaintiffs. In 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 LWVCO opposed failed attempts to provide “tuition tax credits” for private schools.

In 2004 the League opposed legislation that established the State Charter School Institute. As passed, it allowed groups to apply directly to the Institute to become state charter schools, and removed the authority to approve charter schools from those districts that had moratoriums in place. It also required districts to cover excess costs for educating a student with disabilities in a charter school. LWVCO supported clarifications made in 2006 regarding costs, funding for at-risk students and federally required educational services.

The League also supported a bill to allow school districts to impose a transportation fee, as amended to exempt low-income students, since state reimbursement for transportation had dropped from about 40% to 25%.

League supported the 2005 bill, School Accreditation Standards, which mandates and standardizes the calculation of graduation and dropout rates, as well as data on continuing education rates and mobility.

In 2009 LWVCO supported a bill making modifications to the School Accountability Report bringing measures and procedures into alignment and also eliminating some of the more negative aspects of the prior accreditation act (1998).

In 2010 the League testified against SB 191 Principal and Teacher Effectiveness because it was an unfunded mandate and utilized a top-down directive rather than incentives for improved effectiveness. It passed.

The 2012 READ Act that mandates a detailed process of testing for Pre-K through 3rd grade reading skills and reporting to parents was passed over the League’s opposition. The League supported legislation that addressed a formula that gave a percentage of at-risk funding to district charter schools based on the number of at-risk students in the district rather than in the schools themselves. The bill was rolled into the 2012 school finance act. An effort supported by the League to moderate “no tolerance” discipline legislation also survived by being incorporated into the school finance act.

In 2013 a bill that expands the duties of school district accountability committees was supported by the League and passed into law. A bill to extend support for students to remain in English language proficiency programs from two to seven years was supported by the League, but died due to funding issues.

The issue of excessive high stakes testing was brought to the legislature in 2014 by concerned parents. The League supported two bills that would have delayed and/or reduced this practice. Both were defeated, but an interim Standards and Assessment Task Force was approved. The task force developed a list of recommendations that resulted in five testing bills that League had on its watch list in 2015. The final result was passage of a bill that limits social studies testing and another that includes many of the recommendations of the study committee.

The LWVCO unsuccessfully opposed the Claire Davis School Safety Act, which waives school district immunity for acts of school violence. In addition to questions about the effectiveness of the threat of lawsuits in preventing school violence, there was no funding attached to help schools be more effective in preventing such incidents.