Governor signs two education bills | PostIndependent.com

Governor signs two education bills

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two House bills into law Friday: one that would assist rural schools in hiring and retaining top teachers and another that would give local college districts the right to sell and lease direct property.

The term-limited Democratic governor, who is widely touted as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, signed the two higher-education bills at Colorado Mountain College's meeting and conference center at about 3:15 p.m. Friday.

House Bill 18-1002 is meant to assist rural schools in hiring and retaining quality teachers. It will enable the Department of Education to work with rural schools to implement a fellowship program.

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 Ed and rural schools in the state will select up to 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, they must accept the offer or pay back the entirety of the stipend.

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CMC seniors who attended the signing said the stipend won't cover all of their academic costs. But it would especially help those who had to 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, and students like Sarahi Perez say the stipend helps alleviate some of the responsibility.

Leticia Burbana de Lara, an associate professor in the local college's teacher education program said the state requires 800 hours, and the national requirement is 500 hours.

She said many students are quitting their jobs just to handle the heavy internship requirements. She predicts the stipend will aid the students who are required to work.

Sarahi Perez expects to participate in the new bill's fellowship at CMC this fall. She said she had already planned to teach in Glenwood Springs after graduation, but this new bill gives her even more incentive to stay.

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 the teachers who help create a sense of community in Glenwood Springs.

She's a first generation college student and said her mother wanted to become a teacher but couldn't afford a teacher education program while growing up.

"Now I'm doing this for her," Perez said, as a tribute to her mother.

According to The Colorado Education Association, 95 percent of Colorado rural school districts offer salaries below the cost of living.

"Fewer graduates are perusing jobs in education, with a 22.7 percent decline in Colorado," it notes.

"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.

She added, "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.

Power to manage district property

State Rep. Dylan Roberts and State Sen. Kerry Donovan, the prime sponsors of House Bill 18-1366, also saw their piece of legislation signed by Hickenlooper on Friday afternoon.

Although Roberts, Donovan and Hickenlooper, all Democrats, were instrumental in the bill's passing, the piece of legislation saw no opposition within or across party lines.

The bill earned 64 yes votes in the House and 34 yes votes in the Senate. No elected official in either chamber voted against it.

House Bill 1366 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 fiscal 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."

The bipartisan sponsors for both bills include state Reps. Bob Rankin, Millie Hamner and Dylan Roberts, and Sens. Kerry Donovan, Don Corum and Nancy Todd.