Vail state rep tackles education, forest health | VailDaily.com

Vail state rep tackles education, forest health

Robert Allen
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily file photoVail's state representative Christine Scanlan
ALL |

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Vail, Colorado’s state Rep. Christine Scanlan carried about 25 bills in her second term, including the School Finance Act ” which Gov. Ritter signed last week.

The economic recession led to a conlfict with the legislation’s increase of funding for K-12 schools. The act puts $110 million on hold until January ” when the Legislature will decide whether to allocate that money to local school districts.

Budget shortcomings will likely put even more stress on the budget next year.

“I think it will be much more difficult for the upcoming school year; 2010-11’s going to be very tough,” said Scanlan, a Democrat who lives in Summit County. “(We’re) expecting the State Education Fund to go insolvent at some point during that time frame.”

She said the interim school finance committee she serves on will be working to “address that challenge.”

In addition to preserving school funding this year, the act is intended to position Colorado for a share in the pot of $4.35 billion of federal stimulus grants from the “Race to the Top” fund.

The grants to be awarded in the coming fall and spring are aimed at states looking to improve teaching effectiveness, progress-tracking data systems, standards and more.

“We have really done a lot of work on education reform and 21st-century learning in the past two or three years,” Scanlan said. “I know we’re at least a contender for some of those dollars.”

Colorado could gain as much as $500 million from the federal government through the grants. As part of the interim school finance committee, Scanlan said she’ll be working on a proposal for the grants to be submitted by the fall.

The finance act is intended to “incentivize performance, rewarding low-income schools that boost student performance,” she said in a press release. It also, she said, provides a framework for all Colorado students to prepare them for “high-paying, 21st-century jobs.”

Other legislation supports concurrent enrollment for students who want to earn a college degree while finishing high school ” an area where Summit has a “huge leap” on the rest of the state.

“We’re going to look at our program and see what we can actually do, but we already have a great relationship to build on with (Colorado Mountain College),” Scanlan said.

She said she was also proud to see the passage of the Colorado Healthy Forests and Vibrant Communities Act ” which makes $3 million available over three years for fire prevention.

With the economic climate of the Capitol, she said, the bill was “hard to hold on to.”

Scanlan continues to work with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Eagle County, to secure federal money to deal with the effects of the mountain pine beetle.

She said she looks forward to working on school finance again in the next session, which begins in January.

“I think Colorado is really leading some innovative thinking with school reform across the country,” she said, adding that the state not only has ideas, but is putting them to work.