- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Daily Sentinel, July 24, on No Child Left Behind:

No Child Left Behind was an ambitious law when Congress passed it in 2002. But 13 years later, an entire generation of school children has cycled through an era of escalating standardized testing with little to show for it.

The idea was to gradually raise testing targets so that nearly all students would be proficient in English and math by 2014.

But student test scores haven’t changed much and the law proved so onerous that three years ago the Obama administration began to issue waivers to states - including Colorado - that couldn’t meet the law’s requirements. But those states had to agree to implement reforms approved by the U.S. Department of Education, leading to cries of federal overreach.

No Child Left Behind was scheduled for an overhaul in 2007, but Congress couldn’t find a way to address the deficiencies in the law until now. The long overdue fix is at hand, with both the Senate and the House passing updates of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Both Senate and House bills, which will now go to a conference committee, take power away from the federal government and reduce the emphasis on testing. After that, things get messy. Consider that the House bill was supported only by Republicans and barely passed. The Senate bill, however, had wide bipartisan support.

Hopefully it will be the skeleton for the final bill.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver school district, was instrumental in shaping the Senate bill, known as the Every Child Achieves Act.

“Part of what we’ve been trying to do is bring the lessons learned in Denver - from families, principals, teachers, schools and kids - and now schools that we’ve had a chance to visit all over the state,” Bennet said in a statement. “The views of Coloradans are threaded throughout this bill.”

Among issues to reconcile are test-based accountability, Title 1 “portability” (meaning federal funds for students who live in poverty could follow them wherever they enroll) and whether the federal government can retain some say in which schools need intervention.

Ending the achievement gap was the impetus for No Child Left Behind. Whether it’s more effective for the states or the federal government to identify inequities is a matter of debate, but support for struggling schools must remain a fixture of the law.

The Senate version encourages innovation and provides leadership opportunities for teachers and training to aid in their professional development. That sounds like a perfect fit with the direction District 51 is taking. In the past year the District has adopted a new learning model called “competency-based learning” and a new compensation model for teachers that rewards them for shoring up weaknesses or improving instruction in their subjects.

It would be nice if the country’s main education bill supported such locally driven efforts to help kids learn and grow in the classroom.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1eAvyHQ

___

The Gazette, July 27, on the military’s access to Colorado land:

From this point forward, Coloradans should make all reasonable efforts to protect the military’s access to Colorado’s unique terrain. Our natural assets are probably a factor in the Pentagon’s decision this month to spare Fort Carson any immediate and devastating personnel cuts.

After meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board in early 2014, then-Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, contacted then-Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. She asked to discuss our concerns about the potential loss of military operations, which are so important to Colorado’s economy. The Democratic and Republican leaders brainstormed an idea that culminated in legislative funding for the “Report on the Comprehensive Military Value and Economic Impact of Department of Defense Activities in Colorado.” The report found national defense, including direct and indirect jobs, had grown to become the third-largest Colorado industry.

Our role as a military host is something that should make all Coloradans proud - Democrats, Republican, liberals, conservatives, moderates and others. Though our state consists of diverse points of view, each individual’s chosen way of life depends on a strong, well-trained military to maintain national sovereignty and protect our fundamental freedoms.

“Only Colorado has the kind of unmatched natural assets that our military simply cannot find anywhere else,” wrote Joe Blake, Colorado State University chancellor emeritus, in a guest column for The Denver Post.

The state report says Colorado provides a “unique combination of the flat plains landscape that quickly rises to meet the Rocky Mountain range.” That phenomenon “allows a rich mix of geographical environments for land and air training.”

Our natural assets are not enough on their own. Colorado also stands out as a good location for military operations because of what the state report calls a synergy between public and private enterprises that helps the Department of Defense and the people of Colorado. Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, said nearly every county in Colorado benefits from jobs directly and indirectly tied to military operations. Citing the state’s research, he reminds us that Teller County has 173 military or military-related jobs. Park County has 66, Fremont County 188 and Pueblo County 1,404. In El Paso County, the state’s most populous county, 107,000 jobs are tied to the military.

The relationship between Pentagon brass, Colorado’s farmers and ranchers, city and town leaders and ordinary property owners has historically been one of cooperation. In general, military leaders have listened to people burdened by training operations - in the air and on land - and have made adjustments.

As the military continues looking to cut personnel, Colorado politicians, residents and business leaders should maintain a vigilant appreciation of their state’s role as valued host of critical national defense endeavors. All our exclusive terrain means nothing to the Pentagon if the military cannot use it with care.

Those interested in making this state an ever-improving military host should get involved with Colorado Wants You by visiting www.coloradowantsyou.org. The nonprofit - created by Blake, former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown and former Ohio Governor and Colorado College President Dick Celeste - is dedicated to supporting our country’s armed services, veterans and their families.

Let’s keep Colorado the place we all know and love. That involves maintaining a respectful, mutually beneficial partnership with the state’s third-largest industry.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1MUS1uX

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The Denver Post, July 27, on Colorado’s water plan:

The ongoing effort to devise a state water plan is unprecedented in Colorado, but you only have to consider the drought in California to understand why a plan is so important.

Or for that matter, consider the continuing influx of people eager to make this state their home. Maximizing water supplies as population grows is essential.

The first draft of the water plan, released in December, was impressively detailed but far too vague when it came to a specific action plan. The second draft, released this month, is much better. It now includes an entire chapter summarizing what it hopes to get accomplished.

The updated version has a specific goal, for example, for municipal conservation and efficiency. It is to “reduce Colorado’s projected 2050 municipal water demands by 400,000 acre-feet through active conservation, while preserving the contribution of urban landscape to vibrancy and sustainability.”

To achieve the goal, the plan foresees such measures as better resource planning by water providers, a requirement that retailers sell only water-saving sprinkler technologies, and possible financial incentives such as tax credits to encourage “retrofitting higher water landscapes” with those that use much less.

We wish the second draft were more specific in terms of goals for efficiency in agricultural use of water, too, including upgrading aging irrigation infrastructure, but the potential cost there is an obvious obstacle. Where would the money come from?

One important addition to the July draft are the principles it lays down for projects bringing water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. The new draft says East Slope providers must have “backup water supplies” to cover dry years when a project would not be able to divert water; in other words, such projects would not create “firm yield” as they once did.

New trans-mountain diversions already faced major challenges in terms of Western Slope and environmental opposition and permitting hurdles. Having to supply backup water would raise their costs further and make them even less practical. Even so, this is a realistic requirement and the state plan is wise to insist upon it - and to keep it in the final version that must be submitted to the governor later this year.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/1HZVSWq

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The Reporter-Herald, July 28, on expanding I-25 in northern Colorado:

The widening of Interstate 25 from Longmont to Fort Collins should not wait another 50 years.

I-25 through Northern Colorado is not now comparable to I-70 west of Denver, which can resemble a parking lot on weekends, but it can come to that. By 2035, the number of households along north I-25 is expected to increase by 74 percent over 2005 numbers, according to a 2011 Colorado Department of Transportation study. Employment in the area is expected to see a 76 percent increase. Add to that the fact that I-25 is the primary north/south route for this part of the country, connecting other population centers, and it’s easy to imagine a packed, sometimes impassable I-25.

Given that CDOT has said that it won’t have funding to widen north I-25 until 2070, Northern Colorado needs another option. Toll lanes are not popular, but the creation of separate, HOV/toll lanes is a reasonable solution. Free lanes stay free, but motorists who carpool or single occupancy drivers who want to pay may use the toll lane.

The perfect place to see how this kind of tollway can work is U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver, where a such a toll lane went live last week. Motorists who drive alone pay the toll; those who carpool don’t. A switchable transponder in the car can be flipped from “toll” to “free” depending on how many are in the car, but even cars with multiple passengers will be charged the toll if they don’t have a switchable transponder.

Only two solid white lines separate the toll lanes from regular traffic, so law enforcement will watch for drivers who weave in and out of the lanes to cheat the system.

That does raise the question: How will toll enforcement provisions between the state and private toll company work out? The same question goes for maintenance of the road.

And can there be more than one way to acquire a transponder? Currently, transponders are ordered from the ExpressToll website. Is it possible for motorists to pick them up at brick-and-mortar locations? DMV offices already are too busy, but might it be possible to purchase transponders at kiosks or at service desks of retail establishments? Fishing licenses can be purchased at Wal-Mart. What about a tollway transponder?

Northern Colorado’s rapid growth demands that viable solutions to the problems I-25 drivers will face in 20 years be developed now. Wait 50 years? That can’t happen.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1MxNLEG


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