A long parade of task forces and blue ribbon panels have mulled various Colorado education issues over the last decade, but now a group of legislators is pushing for the biggest study of all.
An 18-page measure, House Bill 17-1287, proposes a multi-year, three-committee process to develop "a vision for education in Colorado" and craft a strategic plan for achieving whatever that vision is.
The bipartisan bill, which emerged from informal discussions among some lawmakers over the past couple of years, appears to be on a fast track – at least in the Democratic-controlled House. It passed the House Education Committee on Monday, was endorsed by the Appropriations Committee Thursday morning and received preliminary floor approval after short discussion later in the day. It could receive a final House vote next week (of course, at this time of year any bill has to move quickly to survive, given that the legislature has to adjourn by May 10).
"This is a big, important bill," sponsor Rep. Bob Rankin, R- Carbondale, told House members Thursday. Rankin and fellow JBC member Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, are the prime movers behind the bill. Both are leading figures on school finance issues.
Here's what the structure of the project would look like:
Strategic Planning Legislative Steering Committee – This would include 12 legislators, including the education committee chairs, two JBC members and four members each from the House and Senate. This group would set the schedule for the project and direct the work of the other two panels. Hamner and Rankin have stressed the importance of having the project led by lawmakers.
Executive Advisory Board – Members of this group would include the commissioner of education, the director of the Department of Higher Education, the chairs of the State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, one co-chair from the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and a representative of the governor.
Statewide Advisory Board – This panel is supposed to include to include elementary and secondary teachers, non-teaching staff, administrators and superintendents, school board members, charter board members, teachers and administrators, college faculty, parents of K-12 and higher education students, high school and college students or recent graduates, policy experts and businesspeople. Members are to represent all areas of the state and reflect gender and racial demographics. The chair and vice chair of the steering committee will appoint members of this group.
The bill's language makes clear this is meant to be a long-term project: "The steering committee and the advisory boards are permanent, ongoing entities."
The measure also requires hiring a professional facilitator to create and implement a statewide communications plan, hold public meetings, provide liaison to other groups and studies and provide research for the panels. Estimated budget for the project is $296,353 in each of next two budget years.
The bill lays out a four-step effort to establish the vision and create a statewide education strategic plan for early childhood through postgraduate education.
First phase - Gather public comment and information about the Colorado education system and how Colorado compares to other states and internationally.
Second phase – Set up processes to collect and organize data and continue research.
Third phase - Analyze all the information and create drafts of the vision and strategic plan, delivering them to the governor, state board and legislature.
Fourth phase - Adopt the vision and oversee implementation of the strategic plan – which presumably would require some legislation and a citizen vote if more funding is proposed.
After phase four, the steering committee and boards will continue meeting and working with other agencies to oversee implementation.
The bill doesn't include a timeline, but Rankin told House Education members that phase one would probably take a year, and phase four probably would start in 2020.
See the bill. See the legislative staff summary.