On Thursday afternoon, supporters of Rep. Merrifield’s bill mandating an arts requirement for high school graduation packed the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chambers.  As was expected, the Rural Caucus, CASE, CASB and CEA testified against the bill.  However, arguments in favor of local control of instruction paled as supporters of the bill testified about the importance of maintaining the arts in public education.  For over two straight hours, members of the House Education Committee heard how the arts, as well as math and science, are essential to preparing students for 21st Century professional success and how creativity, communication and problem solving in are the key ingredients to individual success.

In the end, the bill passed with near unanimous support (Reps. Massey and Murray voted against it) and was referred House Committee of the Whole.

Although the Caucus did not support the bill (we have opposed every bill mandating any type of curriculum and/or graduation requirements), we worked closely with Rep. Merrifield as he was crafting the legislation to make the bill as innocuous as possible.  For example, he agreed to remove a provision around using highly qualified teachers for the teaching of visual and performing arts and instead reworded the bill to state that classes shall be “delivered in such a way as to meet standards sand state regulations.”  In addition, Rep. Merrifield agreed to take the phrase “each public school in the state shall require satisfactory completion of a visual arts or performing arts class as a condition of high school graduation” out of the bill and replace it with “demonstration of proficiency.”

On Thursday, HB 1335 passed House Education amended and was referred to House Appropriations.  Unlike the first bill that was proposed (HB 1066), which would have made CDE a food service provider, this bill simply authorizes each BOCES to take on the task of food service if the members of that BOCES so choose.  It also creates the BOCES Healthy Food Grant Program within CDE to: (1) Make grants available to BOCES that maintain, equip, and operate food-service facilities as school food authorities; and (2) require each BOCES that receives a grant from the program to procure and distribute to schools of its constituent school districts only food and beverages that satisfy certain nutritional standards.

HB 1232 Baumgardner–School Bus Vehicle Passed House Education, referred to House COW

HB 1035 Massey and Solano–Eligibility Child Care Assist. Program Passed House Education amended, referred to House Appropriations

HB 1082 McNulty–Bar Felons From School Employment Postponed Indefinitely

HB 1254 Sonnenberg–Assessment High School Graduation Requirement Postponed Indefinitely

SB10-154 Sandoval–High-risk Student Alternative Ed Campus Passed Senate Education amended, referred to Senate Appropriations



Ten years ago, during CASB’s annual convention, a group of superintendents and board of education members gathered to discuss how to combat the one-size fits-all legislation being passed at the Capitol.  The legislature was focused on Denver and other Front Range school districts, taking little notice of the good work being done in the rest of Colorado, particularly in Colorado’s small, rural schools.  Although CASE and CASB were doing their best to balance the needs of all of their members, it was decided that rural schools needed to have their own recognizable presence in the state and at the legislature – it was then the Caucus was formed.

From the start, our goal was to be THE VOICE for rural schools in Colorado.  For too many years rural concerns had been limited to pro-active administrators, board members or community leaders who took it upon themselves to bring an issue to the forefront.  Such disjointed efforts, however, were too formidable and too costly to be effective more than intermittently.  Rural schools were losing out.  We needed a new strategy.

By speaking as one and presenting a clear, unified voice on behalf of rural schools and their communities, we have been able to articulate our unique strengths and challenges.  Issues that are important to small schools and communities have been and continue to be voiced loudly and clearly to the governor, legislators, the state board of education, CDE and others who make decisions of importance for our children, and in ten short years we achieved what we set out to do.  People now turn to the Caucus when they have questions regarding the impact of legislation or policies on rural school districts.  Our members are sought out to serve on state boards and committees.  Our input has led to the creation of bills and policies that directly benefit rural schools and led to the dismissal of others that would have put us at a disadvantage.  We are THE VOICE for Colorado’s rural schools.

This success, however, was not achieved by one or two people alone.  It has been a group effort from the start.  We have succeeded, and I am able to do my job because the Rural Caucus is your voice.  Though we may be small in size, by joining together we have ensured that your voices are heard and acknowledged and that your concerns are at the forefront of what is being discussed around the state.

Because this is our tenth anniversary and because we have so many new members, I decided to dedicate this edition of the Caucus Connection to our history, our members, and our operations.  I hope the information provided is informative and helps you feel a greater connection to the Caucus and what we are striving to achieve.

Thank you for all of your help and support,

Paula Stephenson

Executive Director

The 2010 legislative session will begin next week on Wednesday, January 13.  Although the joint House and Senate Education Committees will be meeting on Thursday it will only be for over site hearings concerning the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Education.  There will be no bills heard at that time.

Beginning the week of January 11, the committees will meet on the following days and at the following times:

House Education Committee (HCR 112):

  • Monday afternoon from 1:30 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday afternoon from 1:30 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday afternoon as needed from 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Senate Education Committee (SCR 354):

  • Wednesday morning from 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM
  • Thursday afternoon from 1:30 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday afternoon as needed from 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Joint Education Committees (HCR 112):

  • Wednesday morning from 7:30 AM – 8:30 AM

Please note, the Rural Caucus will be making a presentation to the Joint Education Committee on Wednesday, March 10 at 7:30 am.  We are encouraging all of our members to attend.

Although several people have requested that a calendar of bills be put together further than a week or two in advance so that travel plans can more easily be accommodated, that is not likely to occur.  As I have in the past, I requested that I be notified as early as possible when bills will be scheduled in various committees.  Following is the response I received from Katey McGettrick, Research Associate for Legislative Council Staff:

“As for knowing in advance the calendar of bills, that is a bit trickier. We cannot schedule bills until they are introduced. Once they are introduced, Lauren and I work with our chairs and the sponsors to calendar the bills. Given the time needed to prepare a fiscal note, bills may be scheduled a week or two out. However, sometimes there is not as much lead time in calendaring bills, due to bill deadlines and when the chair wants the bill heard in committee. I recommend monitoring the calendar and the journal daily to see what has been calendared and introduced, and if there is a bill of particular interest to you or your members, please feel free to contact Lauren or me to see if we know when it might be heard.

I know that the last minute scheduling can be a hardship for those who live far from the capitol. You could also remind your members that they may listen in online if they are not able to attend the committee hearing. While I know that this will not give them the opportunity to testify, they could at least hear the proceedings, and follow up with members on any issues before second reading.”

I will do my best to provide the calendar of bills as soon as I have it.  However, members are welcome to take us up on the travel reimbursement at any time, even if there is not a bill of interest in committee on the day you choose to make the trip to the Capitol.  Please also keep in mind that a quick call or e-mail about a bill goes a long way in helping legislators understand the impact it will have on your district.  You can also request that your e-mail be submitted for testimony.

Greg Brophy has told us that it looks like PERA is on board with our proposal to modify the system, and Josh Penry said our requested changes are being put into the bill.  We are now awaiting a draft copy, which should be available some time next week.

Information provided via CDE Press Release

Public School Capital Construction Assistance Program Director Ted Hughes announced that applications for the 2010-2011 grant cycle for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program are due by 4 p.m. Friday, April 9.  Projects to be funded during the 2010-2011 grant cycle will address health and safety issues, relieve overcrowding or meet technology needs.  The process and the application will be similar to the current grant cycle.
The grant application schedule is as follows:

  • Completed grant applications are due no later than 4 p.m., Friday, April 9.
  • CDE staff will read and summarize the grant applications for the Capital Construction Assistance Board and the Colorado State Board of Education.
  • The Public School Capital Construction Assistance Board will meet on Tuesday, June 29 and Wednesday, June 30 to review applications and select applications to recommend to the state board for award.
  • The recommended projects will be submitted to the state board at the July meeting for information and the August state board meeting for action and approval.
  • BEST Cash grant projects approved by the state board will be awarded after the August meeting. BEST lease-purchase grant projects will be awarded after the certificate of participation financing closes, approximately six months later.

A sample grant application is available at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/download/pdf/CCAGrantApplicationSample.pdf <http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/download/pdf/CCAGrantApplicationSample.pdf>
For more information or to read board minutes, visit http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/CapConstmain.htm <http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/CapConstmain.htm>

Because of e-mails sent to the State BOE alerting them to the fact that Caucus members planned to attend the January 13th meeting to comment on problems with the new Growth Model, State BOE members Shaffer and DeHoff suggested a meeting between the Caucus, the Commissioner of Education, Jhon Penn, Rich Wenning and themselves to discuss this and other issues.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on January 26th from 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM in the Commissioner’s office.  Caucus representatives who have been invited to attend include: Paula Stephenson, Gerald Keefe, and Floyd Beard.  Although the Growth Model will be a topic of focus, we intend to discuss other things that CDE and the State Legislature have us doing that are overloading rural schools given our lack of a full administrative support staff.

Any comments you would like to have shared during the meeting can be sent to me, as I will be taking member comments to discuss.

Keiko Matsui Concert

On March 19, 2010, Keiko Matsui will return to Colorado to perform a concert in the newly built Bennett Auditorium in Bennett, Colorado.  The concert, which begins at 7:00 PM,  is open to everyone and will benefit the arts programs in rural Colorado.

Tickets will run from $15.00 – $30.00.

The talent of Keiko Matsui is not to be missed, especially when highlighted in the unparalleled, 500-seat Bennett Auditorium.  On this night, you and your students will enjoy first-rate entertainment, while taking part in a collaborative event that offers a rare cultural experience.

For more information on the concert or to make a donation to the cause, please contact Gerald Keefe, Superintendent, Kit Carson School District, keefeg@rebeltec.net

Mandatory Arts Requirement for Graduation

Rep. Michael Merrifield has agreed to sponsor legislation that would make one unit of “Arts” a requirement for graduation in all of Colorado’s high schools.

Although a staunch advocate of local control, as a former music teacher Rep. Merrifield does not want to see liberal arts programs disappear from Colorado’s schools.   Unfortunately, with CSAP’s focus on reading, math and science, national trends shifting toward “rigorous curricula” (programs that could be seen as less than well-rounded), and with diminishing budgets, that is exactly what has been happening.  Thus, Rep. Merrifield has chosen to follow in the footsteps of his fellow legislators by pursuing a state mandate.

During a meeting held yesterday with the Colorado Council on the Arts, Caucus Board President, Gerald Keefe, CDE representatives, Gully Stanford and the Lt. Governor’s staff (other groups were contacted via alternative means), Rep. Merrifield discussed his idea, trying to garner support and feel out the opposition.  As was discussed prior to the meeting, the Caucus came out against the proposal – our belief that local control is paramount within the state’s constitution overrides our support of the arts.  However, the Caucus was the only group at the table to take such a stand.  Others thought the requirement could be woven into CAP4K and standards language, which, if done, could lead to more legislation taking this same path – a dangerous one for local control.

At this point, the Caucus will remain in touch with Rep. Merrifield and the Colorado Council on the Arts to see where this is going.


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