Tenure bill nears passage in Colo. Legislature | SummitDaily.com

Tenure bill nears passage in Colo. Legislature

Jeremy P. Meyer, Lynn Bartels and Jessica Fender
The Denver Post

With a midnight deadline bearing down on Colorado lawmakers, the controversial teacher-reform bill passed second reading, with eight Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Senate Bill 191.

More than 33 lawmakers rose in support of the bill at about 11:15 p.m., allowing its return to the House for third reading today, when a roll-call vote will be taken.

The House needed to pass the bill by midnight to conform to a state constitutional requirement that no bill receive second and third reading on the same day. Today is the last day of the 2010 session.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, said the vote marked a big hurdle crossed and said she thought today’s third- reading vote will be fine.

But the bill’s fate is not yet sealed. It will return to the Senate after its third reading, where lawmakers must decide whether the amendments made by the House are acceptable.

More than 200 amendments to the bill have been considered since it was introduced April 12 by Sen. Michael Johnston.

“Then we have to see where the Senate is at,” Scanlan said. “It went well, considering the level of emotion in the room.”

Earlier in the evening a group of former teachers turned lawmakers led a filibuster in an attempt to run the clock on SB 191 – which would have killed the legislation.

But the delay lasted only 90 minutes, ending at about 6:40 p.m., when consensus was reached on an amendment that would allow teachers to appeal demotions.

After that issue was resolved, Democratic lawmakers began to debate Senate Bill 191 and add amendments – pushing toward the midnight deadline.

Scanlan said the the filibuster attempt and the slow move to vote on the bill were power plays by Democrats toeing the party line. “It was to show that if they wanted to go there, they could have,” she said.

Republicans, who are lock step in support of the bill, said if Democrats killed the bill

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, co-sponsor of Senate Bill 191, talks with lobbyists before the House started debating the bill Tuesday evening. The majority-party Democrats started with a filibuster, pressing for an amendment to add an appeal process for teachers. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

without a vote, they would have done the same to every piece of legislation seeking their support today – forcing a legislative meltdown, said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

SB 191 seeks to change the way teachers obtain and keep tenure and ties teacher evaluations to student academic growth. Teachers who receive two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could lose their tenured status and, potentially, their jobs.

Proponents say the bill would help identify effective teaching, make it easier to remove bad teachers and put the state in top position to win $175 million in federal Race to the Top grants.

The bill passed the Senate two weeks ago, and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter has said he will sign the legislation into law.

But teachers have been vehemently opposed to the bill, saying it relies too much on tests, that it scapegoats teachers and takes away due process afforded nonprobationary teachers.

The 40,000-member Colorado Education Association has been fighting the bill every step of the way, saying the legislature shouldn’t be involved in deciding who is an effective teacher.

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