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Effort to gut charter schools dies in Colorado House committee

A bill that would have stripped much of the autonomy from Colorado’s public charter schools died in the Colorado House of Representatives Education Committee on a bipartisan 8-3 vote late Thursday.

The bill’s rejection followed more than eight hours of testimony and debate. Dozens of people testified, the overwhelming majority in opposition to House Bill 24-1363.

“This bill jeopardizes the autonomy of charter schools, potentially limiting options for families like mine and the massive (number) of constituents that came here tonight to testify…” said State Rep. Brandi Bradley, (R-Douglas County) shortly before the vote. “It contradicts principles of choice, innovation and opportunity. And I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

HB 1363 proposed to weaken charter schools in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Stripping charter schools of the freedom to design their own educator performance evaluation systems and gain automatic waivers from certain state statutes and State Board of Education rules. 
  • Removing a crucial portion of the appeals process that allows the State Board of Education to overrule egregious local school board denials of charter school applications or renewals.
  • Repealing provisions in the state charter school law allowing charters to rent school district facilities at low or no cost
  • Allowing school districts with declining enrollment to revoke or non-renew charters.

““We’re glad that a bipartisan group of legislators recognized this bill for the extreme proposal it was and stopped it from moving forward,” said Dan Schaller, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. “What we really need right now is a focus on putting students first. We can do a better job for students, for quality, and for families if we are focused on outcomes and not agendas.”

The bill was sponsored by State Reps. Lorena Garcia and Tammy Story, and State Sen. Lisa Cutter, all Democrats.

The 8-3 rejection by the education committee included no votes from four Democrats: committee Chair Barbara McLachlan, Meghan Lukens 9, Matthew Martinez, and Mary Young. The committee’s four Republicans – Reps. Mary Bradfield, Brandi Bradley, Rose, Pugliese, and Ron Weinberg also voted no. Democrats Story, Jennifer Bacon, and Eliza Hamrick cast the yes votes.