Aurora Sen. Todd’s bill on technical education standards stalls in committee

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DENVER | A bill intended to better mesh the coursework of high school students receiving technical training with community college curricula stalled Thursday, Feb. 4, in the Senate Education Committee after committee chairman Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, laid the measure over to consider an amendment.

Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, would require the Colorado Department of Education to work with the state’s community college system to align college coursework with the state’s career and technical education standards. Those standards, which were a piece of broader legislation passed in 2008, outline coursework for students on track to pursue careers in technical fields like agriculture, family and consumer sciences, health and several other career paths, according to information on the CDE website.

“(SB 79) is simply aligning secondary and post-secondary career tech-ed initiatives,” Todd said during the meeting. “It (provides) coordination between secondary and post-secondary education, (for) students … so that they don’t graduate and say, ‘Oh, gosh, maybe I should have taken that class,’ or, ‘I wish I would have known that this was coursework would have helped me down the road.’”

Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, is co-sponsoring the bill in the House, and a quintet of state senators — including Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora — are co-sponsoring the bill with Todd.

Several school officials testified in favor of the measure, including Michael Gifford, president and CEO of Associated General Contractors of Colorado, a Denver-based trade group that represents hundreds of construction firms. Gifford said that SB 79 would effectively make it easier for students on a technical career path to graduate because they would be able to substitute some technical classes for traditional ones, as long as those classes still satisfied the Common Core State Standards.

“It’s my understanding in high school that if you choose … the traditional path, everything lines up, you take all the classes, you get to community college and everything’s all hunky-dory,” he said. “If you choose an alternative path to take something like shop or you take construction math instead of geometry, then that’s an elective and you still have to come over and take the geometry, too. We don’t want to punish someone if they take their math in a different package.”

The measure aims to build off a broad education reform bill passed in 2008 as well as another measure passed in 2009 that requires schools to provide students with an Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) beginning no later than ninth grade. The plans are meant to identify student interests and flesh out possible careers after graduation.

“(SB 79) requires that a student’s ICAP must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974,” Todd said. “The bill merely reaffirms that requirement.”

FERPA is a federal law intended to protect student privacy.

Todd said that SB 79 would not incur any additional costs.

“It’s nothing very fancy, nothing very exorbitant,” she said. “The good news is there isn’t a fiscal note. The good news is it does open up opportunities for students.”

Committee chairman Hill did not provide details on a possible amendment to the bill during the committee meeting, but he did say that there was “some potential concern,” regarding the measure.

The bill is next scheduled to be heard at the regular meeting of the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 11, according to David Pourshoushtari, a spokesman for Colorado Senate Democrats.