(April 23) – Four Democratic-sponsored bills to address Colorado’s chronic teacher shortage passed the House Education Committee today, for a total of six bills in the 2018 legislative process that seek to make it easier to attract and retain teachers.

“In Colorado we have 3,000 teacher positions unfilled,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “These bills provide meaningful solutions for closing those gaps.”

The components of the package came from an education listening tour conducted as a result of a bill sponsored by Rep. McLachlan directing the state departments of Education and Higher Education to identify the reasons behind, and potential solutions for, the teacher shortage.

One of the findings was that teacher retention was being hurt by a lack of leadership skills among principals. HB18-1367, sponsored by Reps. McLachlan and Jim Wilson, R-Salida, provides funding for stipends to principals or retired principals who have demonstrated strong leadership skills to mentor selected principals who need to improve their skills, with the goal of improving educator retention, school climate and culture, and student outcomes.

“The program is to help principals who are already on the job perfect their craft with the help of successful mentors, with the goal to help teachers thrive and keep working in their schools,” Rep. McLachlan said after the Education Committee voted 9-3 to support HB18-1367.

Also advancing today was SB18-085, sponsored in the House by Rep. McLachlan. The bill would provide financial incentives for educators to work in rural areas, where the teacher shortage is most severe. Currently, the state provides annual stipends of up to $6,000 to up to 20 teachers in rural schools who are seeking advanced degrees or other professional development and pledge to remain with their rural school for at least three years. The bill triples the size of the program.

“This bill will help teachers jump that final hurdle by helping them pay for alternative licensure, classes to teach concurrent enrollment or classes to certify for new certificates,” Rep. McLachlan said. That bill passed the Education Committee on a 10-2 vote.

Another bill to pass this afternoon was HB18-1412, sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, with Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument. It provides funding for the Retaining Teachers Grant Program to assist local education providers to implement initiatives to improve teacher retention. Teacher attrition in Colorado is higher than the national average. The program offers a menu of strategies and each school district can choose the ones that best fit their needs.

“This bill is a commitment to our school districts to give them the tools they need to address the teacher shortage,” Rep. Buckner said. It passed on a 10-2 vote.

HB18-1309 is Rep. James Coleman’s bill, also with Rep. Wilson, to implement a “grow your own” teacher program. Under the bill, education majors at Colorado colleges and universities are paired with school districts or charter schools. With assistance from state grants provided by the bill, the district or school would pay tuition for the student’s last 36 credits. In exchange, the student would commit to work in the same school for three years.

“This bill will allow us to support our students on the pathway to becoming our future teachers,” Rep. Coleman said. The Education Committee advanced HB18-1309 on a 10-2 vote.

Next stop for all four bills is the House Appropriations Committee.

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