shot and a miss

Immunization exemption bill back in the shop for more work

Eight-year-old Monserrat Cholico cringes as she gets a shot at Crawford Kids Clinic in Aurora (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post).

The state’s immunization reporting law, gutted by a Republican-authored amendment unexpectedly added Thursday to a vaccination bill, will be reconsidered on Monday by the House.

The House voted 33-30 Friday for a procedural motion that takes the bill off the final consideration calendar, allowing members to debate it again Monday and consider amendments.

The change Democrats want to make is to undo a GOP amendment that unexpectedly passed Thursday.

Thursday’s 33-32 roll-call vote on that amendment caught everyone in the chamber by surprise, given that the idea had been defeated previously on a voice vote. House staffers said some Democrats may have been confused about what they were voting on.

The amendment would allow parents to voluntarily include children’s vaccination information in the state’s immunization tracking system. Current law automatically puts that information in the system and allows parents to have it removed. All children must be immunized to attend public schools, but state law allows parents to opt out for religious, medical or “personal objection” reasons.

The focus of Thursday’s debate, House Bill 16-1164, wouldn’t eliminate any of those exemptions, as prime sponsor Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, kept pointing out during debate.

The bill would require parents to file their exemption notices online with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rather than submit paper forms to their local schools. Supporters argue the change will take a burden off school nurses and secretaries, provide more complete data to the department and be easy for parents.

Republican members were having none of it. They repeatedly raised a couple big objections during debate that stretched for more than 90 minutes.

Data privacy – “How can you guarantee this sensitive data will be protected” by the health department, asked Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs.

Slippery slope – Republicans fear the bill is a prelude to eliminating exemptions. “There’s a fear that the next step is to require vaccinations,” said Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio.

Others claimed data held by the health department wouldn’t be subject to federal student privacy law and that immunization reporting placed an unfair burden on college students.

Saying she’s received “over 700 phone calls and emails,” Landgraf added, “Everybody wanted a no vote. I don’t see how people can vote against their constituents this way” and support the bill.

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Lone Tree, agreed.

“I don’t consider myself smarter than my constituents,” she said.

Several GOP amendments were defeated. The parent-option amendment was adopted at the end of preliminary consideration, when members are allowed to offer amendments a second time and recorded votes are taken.

The exemptions bill has been contentious from the start. A House committee spent nearly seven hours on the issue last month before passing it 7-6.

How the bill might fare in the Senate is unclear. One of the Senate prime sponsors is a Republican, Sen. Martinez Humenik of Thornton. But the last time lawmakers considered an immunization bill, in 2014, that measure passed the Senate on a close 19-16 vote. Democrats controlled the Senate that year, but the GOP now has a 18-17 majority.

The 2014 bill ultimately passed after being watered down. That bill only required CDPHE to set up immunization information website and reporting of percentages of students who aren’t immunized, broken out by school.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.