Colorado Senate News
27 February 2007
Senate Republicans blunted a Democrat attack today on the state's ability to authorize new charter schools.
Senate Bill 61, by Democrat Sen. Sue Windels, of Arvada, passed on second reading, but only after Republicans, in alliance with some of Windels' own dissenting party members, turned her original measure inside-out. They stripped provisions that would have undermined the state's chartering authority and replaced them with a measure that actually expands the state's ability to use charters to address at-risk kids.
Publicly funded, independently run and increasingly popular, charter schools now number more than 100 in the state and are growing quickly in response to parent demand, according to the Colorado League of Charter Schools. Various charters specialize in wide-ranging student needs, from gifted-and-talented to at-risk.
In today's debate, a procession of Republican and some Democrat senators rose to the podium to speak up for the poor, at-risk kids served by charters and to denounce Windels' attempt to restrict them.
Windels defended her original version of SB 61 as an attempt to improve communication among school boards, charter schools and the State Charter Institute and to end the "adversarial relationship" between some of those entities. Yet, Republicans and other charter school advocates dismissed that version as full-scale assault on the state's ability to help establish the autonomous charters. And Windels conceded at the end of today's debate her measure is only a shadow of its former self.
Prior to the amendments, SB 61 would have undermined the state’s chartering authority by limiting the type of students schools are allowed to enroll, shutting out many of the kinds of students charters now serve.
Established by legislation carried by Democrat Sen. Peter Groff and Democrat Rep. Terrance Carroll, both of Denver, during the 2004 session, the State Charter Institute provides charter schools an alternative means of gaining approval when local school boards stand in their way.
Republicans changed that language, arguing that charters serve a much wider range of students whose needs are not being met by regular public schools.