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February 28, 2024

House Passes Bills to Support Colorado Schools

DENVER, CO – The House today passed two bills to support Colorado schools. HB24-1096, passed by a vote of 59-2 and would create an interstate compact for school psychologists. HB24-1044 passed by a vote of 50-9 and would allow school districts to hire more Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) retirees, without the risk of the retirees losing their retirement benefits.

“This bill brings us one step closer to recruiting more behavioral and mental health professionals into our schools,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, sponsor of HB24-1096. “As a teacher, I know how important it is to address our students' behavioral and mental health care needs so they can reach their full educational potential. This important legislation creates an interstate compact to make it easier for school psychologists to practice in Colorado schools.” 

“I spent most of my career as a school psychologist helping students grow and thrive in our public schools,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley, sponsor of HB24-1096. “We’re committed to addressing the behavioral health needs of our students, and this bill will help Colorado attract more licensed school psychologists to our schools. It is recommended that the student to school psychologist ratio is 500 to one, and in Colorado our average ratio is 942 students to one psychologist. This bill breaks down barriers so already licensed school psychologists can begin working in Colorado schools.”

HB24-1096 would create new pathways for out-of-state school psychologists to gain professional licensure to practice in Colorado. This bill creates the "School Psychologists Licensure Interstate Compact", an agreement between Colorado and six other states where licensed school psychologists in member states can obtain and easily transfer a license from another member state to practice school psychological services. 

This legislation aims to reduce barriers for school psychologists by easing the state-to-state licensure process to increase special education services and access to behavioral health care in Colorado schools.  The “School Psychologists Licensure Interstate Compact" would be particularly helpful for active military and military spouses who are often required to relocate.  

“Our students deserve a quality education and this bill is one step in addressing the teacher shortage,” said Eliza Hamrick, D-Centennial, sponsor of HB24-1044. “This legislation would allow more experienced educators and staff to return to schools, without the risk of losing their PERA retirement benefits. I am excited to see more retired teachers return to the classroom and help our schools and most importantly – our students.” 

HB24-1044, also sponsored by Representative Rick Taggart, R-Grand Junction, would expand the number of service retirees that school districts may hire while still being eligible for PERA benefits. Specifically, school districts would be able to exceed the current 10 retiree cap by 1 retiree for every 1,000 students above 10,000 students. 

Under current law, school districts may only hire retirees when a “critical shortage of qualified instructors” is established. This bill aims to streamline placing educators in classrooms by instead allowing school districts to hire up to 10 retirees if the district identifies a “need” for additional instructors.

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