‘It’s Not A Setup’: Colorado Republicans Want Dems To Take Their Education Reform Plans Seriously

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
State Reps. Meg Froelich, Jovan Melton and Perry Buck head downstairs to inform Gov. Jared Polis that the House is ready for business on The first day of the 2020 legislative session. The Colorado State Capitol. Jan. 8, 2020.

Republican leaders opened the 2020 legislative session with a set of proposals for what they think should change in Colorado's schools. It was a preview, in part, of the party's restrained approach to the next four months of lawmaking.

Lacking power in any branch of state government, the GOP's highest-ranking elected officials acknowledged they'll need Democratic support to pass what they described as a set of low-cost fixes and changes.

"We know that we can’t force these things through. In the minority, we’re looking for ways to again make things work better — that pretty much already exist," said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert.

"This isn't a setup. This is an opportunity. This is an open hand," he said, making a rhetorical point to Democrats.

Some of the bills address controversial topics, such as school choice, teacher pay and sex ed. For example, the proposals would:

  • Allow parents to review curricula and teaching materials before their child starts a sex ed course.
  • Allow school districts to bus students across district lines. This topic was at the center of a lawsuit.
  • Grant all rural districts automatic waivers for certain state laws and rules.
  • Offer high school students who graduate early scholarships equal to the per-pupil funding the state would have otherwise spent on them.
  • Create a state bonus program for effective teachers.

Other bills in the package may face less resistance, including proposals to pay for repairs and upgrades for school buses.

Separately, Republicans are likely to return to the topic of transportation. They want to see at least $300 million for roads and transportation, which they argue can come from the state's existing budget. House Speaker KC Becker specifically argued against the idea of existing money for roads in her opening session remarks.

Democrats have shown no signs of slowing down with their own agenda, with priorities including paid family leave, health care and repeal of the death penalty.

Read More: Partisan Fault Lines Show As Colorado Lawmakers Get Back To Work