On a party line vote today, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill sponsored by Senator Sue Windels (D-Arvada) to mandate standards on Colorado schools that teach sex education. Three committee members, all Democrats – Windels, Bob Bacon, and Ron Tupa – voted to support the House Bill 1292 mandate six weeks after voting against a mandate setting higher state graduation requirements for math and science (Senate Bill 131), and eight weeks after voting against a requirement that high school graduates have basic competency in English (Senate Bill 73). Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora) was the only committee member to cast votes for all three measures.
Last week the House Education Committee, chaired by Mike “Give ‘Em Hell” Merrifield, shot down the math and science requirements after hearing support from a Jefferson County teacher, a university president (could have been two if Merrifield hadn’t rescheduled the hearing at the last minute so CU’s Hank Brown couldn’t testify), and a Lockheed engineer. Said Merrifield:
“My contention is by forcing every child into this narrow curriculum, we are not making them more innovative, we are not making them more creative,” the Colorado Springs Democrat said, citing a national report that calls a well-rounded education the “passport to a job in which creativity and innovation are the key to a good life.”
The Witwer plan, Merrifield said, would make students “more regimented and more lock-step (with) less ability to think outside the box.”
Because the more you learn about physics and algebra, the more atrophied your brain becomes? Or perhaps it’s just not possible to take 3 years of math and 3 years of science in high school AND music, art, or drama? Or maybe Merrifield and the Democrats on the committee believe Colorado’s high school graduates are performing so well in math and science already. This 2005 report from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education belies that notion: It shows that 1 in 4 of Colorado public high school Class of 2004 graduates needed basic math remediation in Colorado public universities.
The problem? High school graduation requirements don’t match CCHE admission requirements, which get even tougher in 2008. Only 53 percent of Colorado’s Class of 2004 would have been able to enroll under the 2008 standards (achieving a 19 in math on the ACT). And nationally, according to NAEP test results, only 23 percent of 12th graders are proficient in math.
Tell schools to teach kids a little more math and science to prepare them for college and life, and you run into a union-controlled, Democrat roadblock. Tell schools how they have to teach sex ed, and will the House Education Committee stand up for local control? Or for creativity and freedom to think “outside the box”? All eyes are watching.
Before the sex ed bill reaches them, the House Education Committee will have another test. The committee will have to decide on SB 73 by Chris Romer (D-Denver), the bill requiring high schools to make sure their graduates are prepared for life with basic English literacy. (Of course, as Mike Rosen pointed out, such an idea would simply be too sensible for the education establishment and their legislative allies to swallow.) Just one more chance for these Democrat lawmakers’ constituents to see where their priorities lie.