Republicans in the Colorado legislature are expected to turn out strong Thursday for a lunchtime rally for charter schools in Colorado Springs.
A Celebration of Charter School Families begins at 12:30 p.m. at Colorado Springs Early Colleges at 4405 N. Chestnut St. The rally is sponsored by the conservative school choice organization Ready CO and the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
The speakers for the event include Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City and Sens. Bob Gardner, Owen Hill and Kent Lambert, all of Colorado Springs.
Hill is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and advocates for options other than traditional public schools. In the last session he sponsored breakthrough legislation, working with Democrats, to equitably share tax dollars with charter schools, House Bill 1375.
Charter schools are public schools organized by parents or leaders in a community with a charter from a local school board. Parents and principals have more autonomy on curriculum and operations. The state has 226 charter schools and more than 108,000 students.
Charter school funding was hailed as a big winner when the session ended in May so Thursday's rally amounts to a victory lap for Senate Republicans.
Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, led the bipartisan House Bill 1340, which created a 10-member legislative committee to study school financing.
Gardner, the founder of Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, serves on the Senate Education Committee.
The Senate Republican caucus produced a video on the subject in February starring Hill and Gardner, along with Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson.
"I have a passion for education, particularly for education choice for parents and children," Gardner said on camera.
Some Democrats are concerned charter schools are a way of side-stepping protections and representation from teachers unions. "School choice" is viewed by opponents as a step toward school vouchers, which would allow some parents, but not all, to take their kids and money out of private schools and leave less fortunate students behind.