I am unpersuaded – NO on SB 191

I’ve given SB 191 a fair hearing. I’ve met with proponents in the legislature to hear their arguments. And, although I do believe that many supporters sincerely believe 191 will improve student outcomes, I’m entirely unpersuaded by their arguments.

Proponents argue that the quality of teaching is the primary factor that leads to greater student achievement. I don’t doubt that. But I don’t believe that 191, alone, will drastically improve teaching or, in turn, student outcomes.

It’s clear that 191 is intended primarily as a tool to get rid of teachers who are failing to perform. There is nothing in 191 to incentivize teachers, provide for more professional development, or provide teachers with additional resources or changed environments. So to believe that 191, alone, will improve teaching requires me to believe that simply replacing some bad teachers, whatever percentage that is, is enough to improve schools. And I just don’t believe that.

Some supporters of 191 admit that we need much greater funding for public education in Colorado (we rank near the bottom of all states currently in spending). And those same people claim that there is support even among Republicans for a ballot issue that would do just that. Believing that passing 191 will generate Republican support for a ballot issue raising taxes to expand education funding is naive.

If 191 were part of a broader set of education reforms, I might be more persuaded that it will help lead to better schools. But that isn’t the case. And I can’t support it. Teachers, and students, deserve better.

Open letter to Senators Bennet and Udall: “No” on amendments is a “Yes” for healthcare reform

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Earlier this morning, I helped deliver a letter to Senators Udall and Bennet from 11 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. These are groups that have been working tirelessly for healthcare reform for many months (and in fact decades for some of them). These are also groups that have advocated for a robust public option.

The purpose of the letter was to urge our Senators to pass the reconciliation package of health reform “fixes” that is presented to them without further amendment, thus ensuring their passage without creating undue delay by sending the measure back to the House.

Nothing in this letter should be construed as a step away from advocating for a robust public option. And, although I do not purport in this post to speak for all of these groups, I believe that they, along with ProgressNow Colorado, will continue to advocate for a strong public insurance option to provide competition and drive down costs. These groups recognize that this is a beginning for health reform, not the end, and that we must pass the bill before the Senate and move forward.  

Following is the text of the letter:

March 24, 2010

Dear Senators Udall and Bennet:

Thanks to your support, the tireless work of our President, members of Congress and advocates around the country, the health reform bill signed into law achieves a milestone on behalf of the health and well-being of the American people. Beginning immediately, no longer will small businesses have to choose between providing health insurance and hiring another worker and no longer will parents have to fight insurers to cover a child with a pre-existing condition. As reform reaches full implementation, not only will 32 million more Americans gain insurance, but Medicare’s life will be extended and the country’s fiscal condition will improve with more than a trillion dollars in deficit reduction.

Important improvements to the health care reform package are included in H.R.4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. This bill will make health insurance more affordable for families, close the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and make needed changes in the provisions to fund health care reform.

We ask you to support this bill, without amendment. A “no” on amendments is a “yes” on health care.



Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Colorado Change that Works

Colorado AFL-CIO

Colorado Public Interest Research Group

Colorado Health Care for America Now

Main Street Alliance


Progress Now Colorado

SEIU Colorado

No more delays for healthcare reform fixes

(Two viewpoints: this is one, click here for the other – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s wrong to suggest that any one Senator, alone, has the power to meaningfully change the health reform bill as it exists right now, and attempts to do so run the risk of backfire and very serious consequences for healthcare reform.

We have consistently and strongly advocated for a public option as a vital component of health reform legislation, and we continue to believe a public option would be the most effective near-term means of bringing down the skyrocketing costs of health care. Like everyone supportive of a robust public option, we were disappointed when it was not a part of legislation passed by the Senate.

But just a few weeks ago, most observers believed that health reform legislation was completely dead. It took tremendous political will to resuscitate health reform after the determined efforts of Republicans and their insurance industry benefactors to inject irrationality and hysteria into the debate. This, added to the challenge of not having sixty votes needed for conventional passage of legislation in the Senate.

Thankfully, the House has passed, and President Obama has signed into law, the health reform package passed by the Senate last December. Though far from perfect and lacking important reforms such as optional public insurance, many key goals sought for decades by progressives are included, such as a ban on exclusion of coverage for preexisting conditions and assistance for low income Americans to obtain health coverage. Over thirty million more Americans will have access to health coverage under this bill, and millions more will benefit from the peace of mind of knowing their coverage cannot be denied them when it is needed most.

The House also has passed an accompanying package of “fixes” to the Senate bill, removing some of the more egregious giveaways to recalcitrant moderates, and making other important adjustments. It is absolutely critical that this bill pass the Senate in the process known as “reconciliation.” Although we welcome workable opportunities to pass additional reforms, the fact is that any amendment to the bill passed by the House will send these fixes back for yet another round of debate and opportunity for obstruction. We can’t risk any further delays. Failing to pass these fixes would be a travesty.

The public option for health insurance is not dead, and I believe there will be additional opportunities to pass this needed reform into law soon. In the meantime, progressives should be smart enough to appreciate the long and arduous process that got us here, and wise enough to take the next step when it’s presented.