Student-athlete bill awaits Polis; teacher diversity bill advances

Gov. Jared Polis chose the main theater of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance — named after the renowned black choreographer from Denver — to sign the CROWN Act on Friday, which prohibits discrimination based on hair styles.

The CROWN Act passed this week with bipartisan votes in the House and Senate. Colorado becomes the fifth state to pass this legislation, following California, New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

“This kind of legislation is long overdue. When I think about African Americans and our hairstyles, we go through a variety of different measures to sometimes straighten our hair, because stereotypes say straight hair may look more professional," said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat. "Over the course of my professional life, I've had to straighten my hair in order to fit in. We should be able to wear our hair any way we want to and not be discriminated against."

The bill protects against discrimination based on hair types and styles, including locks, cornrows, twists, braids, curls, knots, head wraps and afros.

Parker Robinson was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1989, and in 2005 she received a Kennedy Center Medal of Honor. Though she almost died at age 10 from illness, she took dance for therapy — and was teaching at the University of Colorado by 15. In 1970, she started her namesake dance ensemble.

Student-athlete bill awaits Polis

Awaiting the governor’s signature is SB20-123, which offers compensation and representation to student athletes and was re-passed unanimously Thursday by the Colorado Senate. Sponsored by Sens. Fields and Jeff Bridges, the bill would allow student-athletes to receive compensation when their image or likeness is used.

“This bill is all about doing what's best for the students,” Fields told reporters. “Student-athletes are waking up early in the morning, training for hours all while maintaining a full schedule of classes and good grades — and they deserve to be fairly compensated for that.”

"Universities and the NCAA make hundreds of millions of dollars from the efforts of our student-athletes. They deserve the right to control the use of their own name, image, and likeness," said Bridges, a Littleton Democrat.

SB20-123 would prevent higher education institutions in Colorado from upholding any rule, requirement, standard or other limitation that prevents a student-athlete of the institution from earning compensation from the use of the athlete’s name, image or likeness. The bill also would prevent collegiate institutions from providing prospective athletes with compensation prior to their signing.

Additionally, athletes would be able to secure athletic and legal representation, and any compensation the athlete receives wouldn't affect their eligibility to participate in collegiate sports. Athletes who decide to enter into an endorsement deal would have to let the athletic directors of their institutions know 72 hours after the contract is signed.

Teacher diversity bill advances

Also on Thursday, the Colorado Senate Education committee passed HB20-1007, which would increase diversity in Colorado’s K-12 classrooms. The bill would create a working group to investigate barriers to preparation, retention, and recruitment of diverse educators, and consider strategies to increase representation in Colorado classrooms.

“It’s critical that our diverse population of students see themselves reflected in their educators," Fields said.

In 2019, 67% of Colorado's teachers identified as white women, a number that Fields says hardly reflects the diverse makeup of our state's students. Only 46% of elementary school teaching candidates pass the licensing test on the first try, the bill’s sponsors say. When those statistics are broken down by race, only 38% of black teaching candidates and 54% of Hispanic candidates pass the licensing test, compared with 75% of white teaching candidates. This bill aims to identify barriers to licensing in order to prepare and recruit diverse teaching candidates.

The bill is headed to Senate Appropriations.

rlopez@chieftain.com

Twitter: @lopezricardojr