Colorado Parent Trigger Bill Fails in Senate Committee

Published April 25, 2011

A Parent Trigger amendment to a “parental responsibility” bill was voted down in a Colorado state senate committee, signaling what the amendment’s sponsor said was the end of parent empowerment legislation in the Rocky Mountain State for the 2011 session.

“It’s totally dead for the year,” said state Sen. Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), the author of the Parent Trigger amendment and ranking Republican member of the state Senate education committee.

Spence had attempted to insert parent empowerment language in the state senate’s version of House Bill 11-1126 by Evie Hudak (D-Westminster). As proposed, Hudak’s bill merely requires parent notification and meetings at schools the state education department has designated in need of “improvement, priority improvement or turnaround” because of poor student achievement.

‘Trigger’ in All But Name
Under Spence’s proposal, if at least 50 percent of parents at a school labeled in need of improvement for three consecutive years signed a petition, the local district would have to close the school and let students transfer to a higher performing school nearby, or convert the school to an “innovative school,” which is similar to a charter school.

Spence, who cosponsored the legislation creating Colorado’s innovative schools two years ago, says she didn’t call her amendment a “parent trigger,” but her language was essentially identical to a bill the House education committee rejected in March.

“If I had to do it over again,” Spence said, “I might have written the amendment to make the [parent threshold] 60 percent,” arguing the additional signatures might have made the proposal more appealing to wavering lawmakers.

Support from Charter Schools
The Colorado League of Charter Schools said it supported HB 11-1126 with or without Spence’s amendment.

“Parent involvement is integral to both a student and school’s success,” said Stacy Rivera, communications director for the group. “Requiring a district-wide parent involvement plan, which filters down to the school level, makes sense, and involving parents who are already working on the school accountability committee is smart.”

“We would hope that schools are already making information available to parents in a language that they understand when practical,” she added. “Parents deserve to know when the school that their child attends is struggling, and they should to be involved in the improvement process whenever possible.”
Earlier House Bill Rejected
The House Education Committee in March voted down another Parent Trigger bill, HB 11-1270 by freshman Rep. Don Beezley (R-Broomfield), by a vote of 8-5. Two Republicans sided with six Democrats against the bill. Spence had used language from that bill in her amendment.

The Colorado Education Association, the Colorado Association of School Boards, and Colorado Association of School Executives opposed the bill. The Colorado Association of Charter Schools testified in support.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is managing editor of
School Reform News.