SB 191 Passes: "Landmark Day" Shifting Colorado's Education Reform Turf

Update: Another Independence Institute friend and legal guru Dave Kopel has put up a thoughtful post about SB 191 over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Check it out.

Angel choirs are singing, Hallelujah! Colorado’s legislative session is O-V-E-R. Finished. Done. The hot-button education issue SB 191 passed on the last day of session. Though amended to water down some of its effects, the bill is a genuinely positive change in the right direction of tenure and evaluation reform. One senator speaking on the floor got it about right yesterday:

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, didn’t speak during previous debates, but he struck a nuanced note Wednesday. “The change in this bill is not as dramatic as it proponents hope nor as cataclysmic as its opponents fear. It is a moderate bill.”

Still, given the intensity and stridency of opposition coming from the state’s most powerful lobbying force, passage of SB 191 represents a true achievement worth celebrating. National education expert Rick Hess shares that view about SB 191’s passage, giving props to my Education Policy Center friends along the way:

This, as I’ve said previously in the midst of the fight over Florida SB 6, is “seriously big stuff.” Indeed, Pam Benigno, director of the Education Policy Center at the Independence Institute, called it a “landmark day in Colorado,” saying the bill “will align evaluated teacher and principal effectiveness more closely with student academic growth and weaken tenure protections for consistently ineffective teachers.”

As the Colorado News Agency points out, the political fallout from the debate may be the most significant and enduring legacy of SB 191. You can’t walk away from the last month of legislative debates without sensing that the education reform turf has shifted in Colorado, even as plenty of policy work still needs to be done.

A new chapter has begun. Stay tuned….