Governor signs bill to help rural schools hire, retain top teachers | CraigDailyPress.com

Governor signs bill to help rural schools hire, retain top teachers

Tatiana Flowers
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to members of the public, including local teachers and school administrators, at CMC's Moorgridge Commons on Friday afternoon.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a House bill into law Friday that is meant to assist rural schools in hiring and retaining top teachers.

House Bill 18-1002 will enable the Department of Education to work with rural schools to implement a fellowship program. The term-limited Democratic governor signed the higher-education bill at Glenwood's Colorado Mountain College on Friday afternoon.

The bill mentions paying fourth-year education students a $10,000 stipend that will help in covering academic costs for their final year studying in an education program. The Department of Education and rural schools in the state will select as many as 100 fellows, the bill’s online description says. If a student is offered a job at a rural school within two years of finishing the fellowship, he or she must accept the offer or pay back the entirety of the stipend.

CMC seniors who attended the signing said the stipend won’t cover all of their academic costs but will help those who work while in school in order to make ends meet.

The local college’s current education program requires fourth-year students to complete 960 field hours. Leticia Burbana de Lara, an associate professor in the Glenwood campus’s teacher education program, said many students are quitting their jobs just to handle the internship requirements. She predicts the stipend will aid students who also work.

Students like Sarahi Perez say the stipend helps alleviate some of the financial responsibility. The 21-year-old elementary education student said the stipend is not the only beneficial part of the bill. It’s also important to retain teachers who help create a sense of community near the campuses, she said. She expects to participate in the new bill’s fellowship at CMC this fall and had already planned to teach in Glenwood Springs after graduation, but this new bill gives her even more incentive to stay.

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According to the Colorado Education Association, 95 percent of rural school districts offer starting salaries below the cost of living and 23 percent fewer graduates are pursuing jobs in education.

“It’s well known that there’s a national teacher shortage, which is experienced in Colorado but acutely more so in rural areas like ours,” said Barbara Johnson, director of the teacher education program at CMC. “When people who live here can be developed as teachers, that will decrease teacher turnover, which will in turn increase student learning.

The yearlong fellowship is expected to be implemented in rural schools this fall.

CMC GIVEN POWER TO MANAGE DISTRICT PROPERTY

Also Friday, Hickenlooper signed House Bill 18-1366, which deals with a local college district’s power to manage district property. The bill will allow Board of Trustees at Aims Community College and Colorado Mountain College “to sell or lease college district property for any purpose."

“Under current law, this authority is limited to sales of property that may not be needed in the foreseeable future, or sales to a state agency or political subdivision of the state,” according to a note from the Legislative Council Staff.

“The bill may increase the ability of a local district college to finance capital construction projects if such financing arrangements include a sale or lease of college district property.”