(April 25) – Another Democratic-sponsored bill to address Colorado’s chronic teacher shortage passed the House today, completing House action on a six-bill legislative package to make it easier to recruit teachers and retain them once they’re hired.
“In Colorado we have 3,000 teacher positions unfilled,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “Enough is enough. We need to treat teachers with respect and admiration for the hard work they do serving our students.”
SB18-085, sponsored in the House by Rep. McLachlan, provides 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 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, which passed today on a 48-17 vote, triples the number of teachers who can benefit from the program.
This session’s teacher shortage bill package was informed by a statewide teacher shortage listening tour commissioned by a McLachlan-sponsored bill in 2017. Here are the other parts of the package:
- HB18-1412, sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, with Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, provides funding for the Retaining Teachers Grant Program to assist local education providers to implement initiatives to help current educators and improve teacher retention. The program offers a menu of strategies including child care assistance, housing assistance and other options, and each school district can choose the ones that best fit their needs. It passed the House on Wednesday, 50-14.
- One of the findings from the listening tour was that teacher retention would be improved by enhancing leadership skills among principals. HB18-1367, sponsored by Reps. McLachlan and Jim Wilson, R-Salida, provides funding for a mentoring program pairing high-achieving active or retired principals with selected principals who need to improve their skills. The bill also passed on Wednesday on a 39-25 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. The bill passed Wednesday on a 47-17 vote.
Already past the House and in the state Senate are these two bills:
- HB 18-1002, by Reps. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, creating a paid teacher fellowship program for students in the last year of a teacher preparation program to teach in rural school districts with teaching shortages.
- HB18-1189, by Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Lang Sias, R-Arvada, creating pilot programs to find out what works in teacher residency programs, so that Colorado can effectively address teacher shortages and teacher retention.