Across the Street: My two bills worth
Spring has arrived at last, and the legislative session has come to an end, not without a huge sigh of relief from many who work at the Capitol. Education bills are always a big part of the session’s activity and this year was no exception. Two bills worked their way through both Chambers with support from both sides of the aisle. In my opinion, they were the most important bills passed since I’ve been representing the Third Congressional District on the State Board of Education.
The Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (Colorado READ Act), was important for several reasons. First, it’s based on evidence and science and includes the foundational skills of teaching reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension. It also requires oversight authority by the Department of Education to ensure that the READ Act dollars are spent correctly. All K-3 teachers will be trained in evidence-based practices by 2022, and a third-party evaluator will thoroughly assess the program results for effectiveness. Through an advertising campaign, the community along with libraries and parents will be kept informed of the reading program and its local impact. Districts experiencing student success will be highlighted at district and state levels. With only 40% of our third-graders reading at grade level this bill brought a sense of urgency to the problem. Adding accountability allowed the bill to gain bipartisan support in both houses.
My second bill of importance was House Bill 19-1030 – Unlawful Electronic Sexual Communication. The bill was brought forward because of a case of “sexting” between a teacher and a 15-year-old student in Craig. HB19-1030 closed a loophole in the law that now protects students between the ages of 15-17 from this form of communication with a “person of trust.” A jury acquitted the defendant in December 2018. With the legislative session beginning in January, there was a flurry of communication when Craig school Superintendent Dave Ulrich called me and expressed concern about the safety of his students and the concern of the community. I was able to get then Representative Bob Rankin as a bill sponsor.
As Representative Rankin moved to the Senate, he continued as a bill sponsor, and Representative Matt Soper led the charge in the House. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this case including sponsors Senators Rankin and Rachel Zenzinger, Representatives Soper and Dylan Roberts, and a special thank you to the Craig Daily Press who covered the case, keeping the community informed as it made its way through the legislative process. From start to finish this was accomplished in six months. On May 9, the Governor signed HB19-1030 into law.
This is a very brief highlight of two important bills that I focused on during the 2019 session. I will continue to follow the READ Act as it’s implemented throughout the Third Congressional District.
The good news is that some of our teachers have learned and are already applying The Foundational Skills of Teaching Reading. The really good news is that their students are succeeding, and reading scores in their classrooms are improving.
It continues to be an honor to serve constituents in the Third Congressional District.