- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Denver Post, April 10, on criminal history and the hiring process:

Generally speaking, a society that makes it easier for reformed lawbreakers to return to productive lives is the better and stronger and more prosperous for it. A bill getting a late start in the Colorado General Assembly seeks to bolster that observation through regulation that strikes us as reasonable - especially given the benefits that would follow.

House Bill 1305, touted by advocates as the Colorado Chance to Compete, would require employers to delay questions about criminal convictions and arrests until the second step of the hiring process. An earlier version of this effort surfaced last year and was known as Ban the Box. As with the name change, the intent of the new bill is to make it friendlier for business owners worried its implementation would harm the hiring process.

Under the language of this year’s bill, companies wouldn’t be able to say in job listings that those with criminal histories need not apply. Employers also would be prevented from including on their applications questions about convictions or arrests. The spirit of the prohibitions is simply to acknowledge that an otherwise qualified candidate trying to seek legitimate employment shouldn’t be automatically skipped over.

Those requirements met, employers may do all of the things employers already do. They can ask applicants about their criminal or arrest histories. They can conduct criminal background checks. HB 1305 would not override laws that prevent those with certain convictions from working in jobs whose convictions make them an unacceptable risk.

Also, Chance to Compete advocates included language meant to make clear that should the bill become law, its language could not be used to create a protected class of convicts that must be considered for employment. The bill makes clear that violation of its core limitations doesn’t count as evidence of discrimination.

Proponents point to studies that suggest that the criminal-histories stigma costs the nation’s gross domestic product tens of billions of dollars a year. They note that difficulty in getting a job is a key reason some who have completed prison sentences return to a life of crime. Many families, especially those with children, who have already dealt with a conviction are further harmed by companies that too quickly reject candidates with bad records. Given that about 1.5 million Coloradans have convictions in their past, the strain on the safety net for automatic rejections is likely substantial.

In recent years, many large companies - from Walmart to Target - have voluntarily dropped initial questions about past convictions. Nine states have laws that bar the questions at the first stage of the application process.

We get it that HB 1305 would add another layer of regulation for businesses and that, ideally, companies would opt for the change voluntarily. Tony Gagliardi, the Colorado director for the National Federation of Independent Business, says the bill would prove onerous to small-business owners and that its requirements aren’t necessary. But Gagliardi also says most small business owners - who often need to make hiring decisions quickly - already give applicants who check the box follow-up chances to explain. If that’s the case, then it would seem the Chance to Compete measure wouldn’t violate actual practice.

We like this measure, and hope to see it become law. It would seem backers may have waited too long this year to realize success. If so, that’s a shame. If HB 1305 doesn’t get traction this year, we hope advocates are prepared next year to try it again.

Editorial: https://dpo.st/2nB5Yfw


The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, April 9, on free speech at Colorado colleges:

Students throughout the country who want a free and liberal education should look to the public universities of Colorado, thanks to the Colorado Legislature, Republican Sen. Tim Neville and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The governor last week signed Senate Bill 62, which The Gazette’s editorial board supported from moments after Neville introduced it early in this legislative session. The new law does something we never thought was needed in a country founded on free speech. It prohibits government universities from limiting, restricting or curtailing peaceful protests, assemblies, voter registration drives, campaigning and other forms of expression.

It may be unpopular to stand on campus with a sign opposing abortion, but campus authorities can no longer forbid such expressions or banish them to obscure “free speech zones” simply because some students object to the message.

“A public institution shall not impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student speech unless such restrictions are reasonable, justified without reference to the speech’s content, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information or message,” explains the summary of the bill.

The bill was carefully crafted to avoid protecting speech that is not protected by the First Amendment. That means administrators retain authority to punish someone who yells “fire” in a crowded lecture hall, if the yeller knows there is no fire. Offensive, hateful and unfashionable speech is protected, while speech crafted to incite violence or harm is not.

“The signing of this bipartisan bill is proof positive that though we may disagree on some issues, we all place the highest premium on strengthening our constitutionally guaranteed rights,” Neville said Tuesday.

The bill enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature, even though many examples of campuses violating free speech involved the censorship of anti-abortion groups and religious right students advocating religious freedom and a variety of conservative social values.

Neville countered Democratic opposition by cornering the ACLU into backing the bill and arguing that campuses have traditionally been environments conducive to the exchange of radical, unpopular and outside-of-the-box ideas.

Intolerance of a black politician’s conservative views by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs helped inspire the law. UCCS law enforcement, obeying campus policy, sent student Brandon Leiser to a “free speech zone” in 2016 for campaigning on the school’s west lawn for then-U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn, the El Paso County commissioner who calls himself a pro-life, pro-gun “Christian constitutional conservative.”

All over the country, campuses have been making headlines for prohibiting conservative speakers and punishing students who express right-of-center views on anything ranging from transgender restrooms to abortion to religious liberty.

SB 62 sets Colorado apart, as similar bills are failing throughout the country. The Tennessee and North Dakota legislatures, among others, recently killed bills nearly identical to SB 62.

Congratulations to Sen. Neville, his fellow Republicans, legislative Democrats, Gov. Hickenlooper and the ACLU for working together on a bill to strengthen free speech - an apple pie value all Americans should accept and defend.

Parents throughout the country should take note. If they want their young adult children to benefit from an environment of traditional academic freedom and free speech, they should consider Colorado’s public universities - where censorship is a thing of the past.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2o41WZ9


The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, April 11, on how education plays into 2018 governor’s race:

Education and career training are shaping up to be major themes of the 2018 Colorado’s governor’s race - at least among Democrats.

When six-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter formally announced his candidacy Sunday, he mentioned public education as one of his priorities.

But two of his better-known Democratic rivals are also touting education and career pathways as keys to sustaining Colorado’s current economic prosperity.

Mike Johnston, a former state senator, served as an education adviser to Barack Obama when he was seeking the presidency. He has since cemented a reputation as an educational innovator.

When he announced, Johnston introduced his Lifetime Opportunity Promise. Johnston wants to give Coloradans access, debt-free, to two years of career training or post-secondary education, he told Westword in March.

Noel Ginsburg, the chief executive officer of Intertech Plastics, was in town over the weekend for Club 20’s annual spring conference. While he’s a declared candidate for governor, he spent his time in Grand Junction calling on business owners to be part of educating tomorrow’s workforce through apprenticeships.

Business owners and industry should have a role “to not just be consumers of the education system, but producers as well,” Ginsburg told a receptive audience.

Ginsburg is a founder of CareerWise Colorado, which offers career training and opportunities through a network of school districts and businesses modeled after the Swiss concept of using apprenticeships to train high school students.

School District 51 is among the first wave of schools involved in a 10-year rollout of the program. CareerWise Colorado is looking to place 25 Mesa County students in apprenticeships at local businesses starting this summer.

The goal is to expand CareerWise across the state, so that 20,000 high school students are working in apprenticeships in the next decade. As the Sentinel’s Katie Langford reported Sunday, high school students who receive apprenticeship training can graduate with the skills needed to enter the workforce immediately or attend college with credits already in hand from an apprenticeship.

Ginsburg said there are fewer recruitment and training costs and increased retention and loyalty when businesses train employees through apprenticeships.

Whether Ginsburg’s efforts to promote apprenticeships enhance his candidacy or not, we’re fortunate state officials saw fit to establish a statewide apprenticeship program, which only enhances our workforce readiness.

Similarly we stand to benefit from a gubernatorial race in which education and workforce development have already been identified as key economic and social drivers.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2o1m3q1


The Durango Herald, April 10, on success of dual enrollment programs for high school students:

High school students who take college classes through dual enrollment programs are more likely to have a higher grade point in college and to graduate. Perhaps more importantly, they are more likely to attend college.

Colorado’s Department of Education has released its annual report on dual enrollment for the school year 2015-2016, and it shows a slightly higher participation rate than in the previous year. A total of 38,500 students enrolled in dual enrollment classes, including 30 percent of 11th and 12th grade students statewide. That is encouraging. But for all the benefits of dual enrollment, which permits students to take college courses with no tuition charge, there is room to do more.

Statistics show Durango School District 9-R with 118 or about 10 percent of its high school students in dual enrollment. Montezuma-Cortez High School is also at 10 percent.

District 9-R’s superintendent would like the percentage to be 25 percent, not 10. Why? For Dan Snowberger it is a matter of acquiring confidence. Students who succeed at college-level courses acquire needed confidence to attempt college, and to succeed at post-secondary educational endeavors. They may also do better in their other classes.

There are obstacles to dual enrollment. The state requires that high school teachers who deliver college-level instruction have a master’s degree in that specialty. Logistics, which includes scheduling, may make it difficult or impossible for high school students to travel to a college campus for dual enrollment class. Perhaps that is why Fort Lewis College lists only 50 dual enrollment students in the 2015-16 school year.

To be effective, students should not be enrolled in dual enrollment classes just to save tuition or to get them out of the way. The courses have to be delivered with adequate academic rigor and they have to be taken seriously.

Improving the flow between elementary, middle, high school and college, the latter having the biggest need, is also critical.

Dual enrollment has demonstrated results. Growing the number of students who participate is one way to raise their educational accomplishments. Let’s hope that Southwest Colorado students can become stronger participants too.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2p0wSKF

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