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Colorado House Pursues Backdoor Expansion of Teachers Union Power

The Colorado legislature has taken up House Bill 1257 (HB 1257), which appears to be an attempt to empower teachers unions in the state. The proposed “Developing Local-level Educator Evaluation Systems” bill states that any school district seeking to provide an employee evaluation system must work with a local teachers union or association to do so.

If implemented, HB 1257 would essentially once again inject teachers unions into relations between local boards of education (BOE) and school teachers.

In the past year the Douglas County BOE has dissolved ties with the local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), but HB 1257 would force the school board to once again cater to the demands of the union in order to put an evaluation system in place for the district’s teachers.

With little respect given to the “local control” provision found in the Colorado constitution, HB 1257 would require the Douglas County BOE and officials in other school districts to set aside direct negotiations with teachers and instead reassert the power of unions if the majority of the teachers are in the union or the majority of teachers sign a petition.

Douglas County, where local elected officials than union leaders have worked to develop a “cutting edge” performance-based evaluation and pay system, the school board has worked to assemble an evaluation system with the help of hundreds of teachers. Progress on the new evaluation system has been steady, with the Douglas County BOE receptive and responsive to the questions and concerns of teachers within the district.

HB 1257, sponsored by State Representative Millie Hamner (D-Denver) and State Senator Nancy Todd (D-Aurora), appears to dictate that if any evaluation systems are introduced and the teachers union or association is not consulted, the district must use the State Model System for evaluation – again contrary to the spirit of local control.

Supporters of the bill include the Colorado Education Association, AFT Colorado, and Colorado AFL-CIO, who have hired lobbyists to advocate for the legislation in Denver.

Hamner and Todd have received generous campaign donations from the various unions, as well as other supporters of teachers unions, throughout their time in the Colorado legislature.

Hamner, who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2012, received $8,300 in campaign contributions from the Public Education Committee, Democrats for Education Reform, Bridgepoint Education Inc. PAC, and AFT Colorado.

Todd, who was first elected to the Colorado House in 2004 and has served in the Senate since 2012, has received a total of $22,675 from teachers unions and affiliated groups she was first elected. Todd brought in $18,320 during her multiple campaigns for her former House seat and $5,300 for her recent Senate campaign.

HB 1257 was introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives and assigned to the Education committee on March 8, 2013. The bill was then sent to the House Committee on Education April 15, and was sent to the House Committee on Appropriations for amendments on April 17.

During review in the Committee on Appropriations, it was revealed that the bill will cost $120,093 for the fiscal year which begins July 1, 2013. Of that, $100,440 will be used for personnel services and $19,653 for operating expenses.

The House of Representatives referred HB 1257, as amended, to the Committee of the Whole on April 17, on an 8-4 vote.

This story was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado.

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