February 27, 2012

A question of preschool or tests

Watch the video here:


Thursday, HB1091 “The Preschool Bill” was debated in the Colorado State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.

Here are the facts:
HB1091 “The Preschool Bill” takes the public money that exceeds the federal testing mandates of No Child Left Behind and invests it in the Colorado Preschool Program.

For the past 10 years Colorado has over spent on average $6,467,319.00 every year. The annual cost to provide an at-risk child preschool is $2,817. If passed, this bill would allow 2,295 MORE 4-year-olds the opportunity to attend preschool. According to a recent report by the Colorado Department of Education, nearly 8,000 identified at risk children were unable to attend preschool due to a lack of funding.

Education bills are ordinarily heard in the Education Committee, House bill assignments are at the discretion of the Speaker, Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch).

The State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee is comprised of 9 members:
4 Democrats – 3 women, 1 man; two are Hispanic and two who are white.
5 Republicans – 5 men, white

More than 50 students, parents, teachers, and citizens, many who had taken a day off of work, waited three hours to hear the testimony.
21 people signed up to provide testimony in support the preschool bill, 4 signed up to oppose.

The Vice-Chairman, Representative Coram (R), notified the audience that there would be one hour allocated for the bill.
Two Republican Committee Members asked questions of the bill sponsor, Representative Judy Solano (D – Brighton). This is standard protocol AFTER public testimony is heard and before the vote is taken.
After 1/3 of the hour had been consumed by questioning from Representative Mark Waller (R), Rep. Coram announced that there would be 20 minutes given to supporting testimony and 20 minutes given for opposing testimony. Rep. Solano explained that there were only 4 to oppose and 21 to support and requested each person be given 3 minutes to provide public input. That request was denied. Someone shouted from the audience, “Why won’t you listen to the voices of parents and teachers?”

6 people rushed through the statements they had carefully prepared for this day: 1 preschool Administrator, 1 representing homeless children from Catholic Charities, 2 educators, and 2 students.
The proponents argued that the half billion spent on testing had not improved a single outcome. Preschool, an evidenced based intervention, has a proven record of effectiveness in raising student achievement and improving outcomes for children.

3 people provided opposing testimony: 2 corporate executives and 1 social studies teacher. Twice the executives reminded the committee, “Their companies donate a lot of money to education.” The men argued the importance of Social Studies and the need for more testing in that area. Social Studies is NOT currently tested. Last year the State Board of Education, (all white), had voted to expand state standardized test to add more hours to test Social Studies. CSAP, renamed TCAP requires students undergo timed testing for an average of 12 hours every year.

Throughout this entire process, eleven little children from the Threats Daycare, Aurora, sat patiently in the first two rows coloring and twirling small American flags.
Their little round faces went unrecognized. It was as if they were invisible. The conversations were about tests – not about children. Seeing this, Representative Solano invited the 3 and 4 year olds to stand up. Under the instruction of their teacher, Mr. Scott, they counted to ten in five languages. These children want so badly to learn and succeed, not according to a test or a state standard, but in accordance with their own hopes and dreams.

The question of whether Colorado’s most vulnerable children will be given test sheets or preschool will be answered this Wednesday, February 29th starting at 1:30. The Preschool Bill, HB1091 was carried over. The hearing will continue in Room 0112 at the Colorado State Capitol. The decision is in the hands of the Republican majority in the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. Stay tuned…and better yet…show up and watch for yourself.

When: Wednesday February 29th at 1:30
Where: Colorado State Capitol, Rm 0112