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McLachlan: Listening and leading on education

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Saturday, April 28, 2018 12:42 PM

This week has been a good one for schools and teachers.

Last year, the governor signed my bill, HB 17-1003, to find solutions to Colorado’s educator shortage. We’re pushing forward to identify them.

Colorado is about 3,000 educators short, including teachers, aides and special services instructors. The Department of Higher Education and Department of Education toured the state last year to determine why educators are leaving the profession early, or not entering it at all.

In December, they presented the education committees with their results. And on Monday, the House Education Committee discussed four bills generated by the listening tour.

The Legislature set aside $2 million for teacher education programs and $8 million for public schools this year to remedy many of the educator shortage issues. These four bills, plus two more, are working their way through the Legislature:

HB 17-1367 will create a professional development program for school principal leadership. The tour found many teachers leave the profession because of weak leadership. This bill will use strong mentor principals to help those who need assistance. The goal is to train principals to use distributive and collaborative leadership skills to improve educator retention, school climate and culture and student outcomes.SB 18-085 will expand an existing program providing stipends to teachers who are pursuing additional certification and agree to teach in rural areas. This will help teachers complete an alternative licensure program, finish additional course work to be certified as a concurrent enrollment teacher or complete classes leading to certification as a special services provider. Teachers who receive this funding must teach in a rural area for three years. HB 18-1309 implements 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 help 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.HB 18-1412 provides funding for a “Retaining Teachers Grant Program” to help schools implement initiatives to improve teacher retention, which in Colorado is higher than the national average. Schools will be offered a menu of strategies, and each can choose those that best fit their needs. The menu includes job-sharing, on-site child care, teacher induction programs, incentives for highly effective teachers and others.HB 18-1189 expands the number of teachers entering a residency expansion program. This helps encourage professionals who want to enter the teaching profession to complete the rigorous alternative teacher licensure program.HB 18-1002 is a rural grow-your-own fellowship program that helps a student pay for the costs of student teaching, with the promise that the district and teacher will work together to ensure employment.Listening to educators and addressing their needs has produced some forward-thinking bills that will help our students become well-educated, productive members of society.

Barbara McLachlan represents HD 59. Reach her at barbara.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.

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