In an opinion piece today for the Denver Post, two Republican state lawmakers – Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, and Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Golden – recap the recent direction of education reform in the Colorado legislature. Among other things, they criticize the Democratic majority for enacting new detailed sex education standards (signed by Governor Ritter this week) while being unable to set even modest standards for math, science, and English proficiency (as I also wrote about many weeks ago):
It is not as though meaningful reforms weren’t proposed. Senate Bill 73, by Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Michael Garcia, D- Aurora, would have required students to be proficient in English to receive a Colorado diploma. And Senate Bill 131, which we sponsored, would have set graduation standards for math and science at four years and three years, respectively. While important first steps, both bills made only very modest demands of our public schools. After receiving broad bipartisan support in the Senate, both bills were dispatched on party-line votes in the House Education Committee, which is rapidly becoming a graveyard for common-sense education reform efforts. Rather than demanding more of our education system, the majority on this committee stubbornly defends an indefensible status quo.
Yet even as they were killing math, science and English measures, members of the House Education Committee initiated and won passage of House Bill 1292, which set forth detailed and graphic content standards for sex education.
Colorado’s kids deserve better. Students graduating from high school this year face an increasingly competitive global economy where math, science and communications skills are at a premium.
Job growth in technical fields outpaces overall job growth by a rate of four to one, with many new jobs heading overseas. By the end of the decade, it is projected that 90 percent of the world’s engineers will live in Asia.
Meanwhile, Mike Rosen in the Rocky Mountain News also highlights S.B. 73, the legislative effort to tie basic standards of English proficiency to high school graduation. Rosen reminds us who the characters are responsible for killing this bill and other commonsense legislation, and their reasons for doing so:
This is a smoke screen. What the educrats are really afraid of is being held accountable for results. Without testing, this requirement would be meaningless. Imagine the public outrage should people discover that an embarrassingly large percentage of would-be high school graduates can’t competently speak or write our language. What an indictment of our government school monopoly that would be, and what an invitation to school choice, competition and vouchers.
The ease with which this perfectly sensible bill was killed in the legislature is testimony to the death grip that the teachers’ unions have over education in our state. All four of the Democrats on the Senate Education Committee are current or former members of teachers unions. Of the eight Democrats on the House Education Committee, five come from the ranks of unionized teachers, one is the husband of a former teacher, and another was a winner of the Jeffco teachers union’s “Friend of Education Award.”
Penry and Witwer conclude by leaving the political hot potato in the governor’s corner:
As he considers these issues, [Democrat Governor Bill] Ritter would do well to learn from those who have made graduation standards a centerpiece of education reform. We need action, not just another blue-ribbon commission. We invite the governor to jump in to the fight for rigorous graduation standards for math, science and English. Without his political muscle, there’s little chance that real reform will survive the anti-reform gauntlet that is the House Education Committee. But if he will throw his support behind the efforts of a growing, bipartisan group of reform-minded lawmakers, Colorado can join the rest of the country in giving our kids the basic tools they need to compete in the emerging global economy. It’s a matter of priorities.
A serious one-two punch from Rosen and the young duo of Republican legislators this morning.