July
22nd 2016
SB 191′s Reforms Begin to Take Hold

Posted under Accountability & Senate Bill 191 & Teachers & Tenure & Union

Passed in 2010 with bipartisan support, Colorado’s Senate Bill 191 is a big law that includes a lot of different timelines. Frequent delays in the law’s implementation only add to the confusion. But despite all that messiness, the law is beginning to do its work.

At its core, SB 191 is a tenure reform law. Okay, okay, legal nerds, a “non-probationary status” reform law. Previously, Colorado teachers earned non-probationary status after three years of teaching. That status provides near-absolute “due process” job protections that could force school district leaders to navigate legal requirements all the way to the steps of the Colorado Supreme Court should they decide to fire a non-probationary teacher. Under SB 191, teachers earn non-probationary status after three years of effective teaching. As an important corollary, those same teachers can lose that status after two years of ineffective teaching.

We’ve discussed the ins and outs of these reforms at some length in the context of the union-led assault on legislative authority that is the , which deals with SB 191’s lesser-known mutual consent provision. We’ve also covered the Independence Institute’s arguments about why the union is way off base legally in that case. We won’t beat those dead policy horses this afternoon. Instead, we’ll talk about the fact that SB 191’s centerpiece component—the loss of non-probationary status for ineffective teachers—has come online. Continue Reading »

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July
19th 2016
Colorado State Board of Education Opens up the ESSA Conversation

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Ross Izard & State Board of Education

I broke out my (heavily used) soap box a couple weeks ago to talk about the importance of having a seat at the education policy grown-ups table. We talked about Hillary Clinton’s promise to guarantee the National Education Association some level of policy influence, as well as some of the questionable stuff that has come out of working groups here in Colorado that are woefully devoid of any semblance of balanced perspectives.

I finished the post by calling for Colorado’s new working committee on the Every Student Succeeds Act to be more inclusive of reform-minded voices, and worried aloud that the deck had already been stacked in favor of the omnipresent education establishment. It looks like I spoke too soon. Continue Reading »

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July
15th 2016
Public Policy Buckets and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted under Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

You know, we spend too much time thinking about public policy in buckets. I live in the education bucket, while others live in the finance bucket or the energy bucket or the transportation bucket or… well, you get the point. But the world doesn’t really work that way, does it? Public policy in one area often deeply affects policy in another. Pull the wrong string over here and you may inadvertently spark a crisis over there.

To underscore that point, I’d like to call your attention to Exhibit A: South Routt School District (SOROCO to the locals) and the unintended consequences of the War on Coal on education in Colorado.

South Routt is a tiny school district of about 350 PK-12 students near Steamboat. I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of it before. Like many rural school districts in Colorado, SOROCO lives on a budgetary razor’s edge where any large swing is likely to be felt very keenly.

You can imagine the district’s panic, then, when Peabody Energy, the country’s largest coal-mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2016. Why would a national coal company’s bankruptcy matter to South Routt? Because it turns out that bankrupt corporations aren’t great at paying their taxes. Continue Reading »

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July
8th 2016
New Profile Highlights Crossroads School in Longmont

Posted under Media & Private Schools & Publications & School Choice & Tax Credits

I had a serious internal debate with myself this morning about whether I should use a Friday post to engage in a major policy discussion. There are several such discussions out there that we need to have, and have them we shall. But I think I’ll save you the brain damage for now and instead engage in a little shameless self-promotion.

Well, not quite “self-promotion,” since I, Little Eddie, didn’t technically write “Altering Course: A Profile of Crossroads School.” My Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard took care of that. Then again, it just so happens that I agree with Ross on every issue—sometimes to the point that people allege that we may, in fact, be the same person. Which sort of reminds me of a funny meme:

Continue Reading »

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July
7th 2016
The Importance of Having a Seat at the Table

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & State Board of Education

Having a “seat at the table” is especially important to me as a five-year-old. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Mickey Mouse table and chairs, and there are definitely benefits to sitting at the kids table—food fights, extra dessert, and the social acceptability of using spaghetti noodles as walrus tusks, to name a few. But there are good reasons to want to sit at the grown-up table, too. And as I get older (very, very slowly), I’m starting to wonder about the selection process used to determine which “adults” get to sit at the education policy grown-ups table. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2016
SBOE Primaries Set Up Interesting November Battles

Posted under Education Politics & State Board of Education

I apologize for my absence over the last week, friends. I was in Nashville eating delicious barbeque and attending the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference. This year is a special year to hang out with charter leaders, advocates, and policy wonks, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the American charter school movement. Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991. Since then, the movement has grown to include nearly 7,000 schools serving roughly three million students across 42 states and the District of Columbia. Yeehaw!

I learned three things at the conference. First, that Nashville’s hot, sticky weather offers a compelling argument that we should regard air conditioning as the single most important invention in human history. Second, that southern food puts all other regional foods to shame. And finally, that the American charter school movement is absolutely stuffed with inspirational people from a thousand different walks of life and of a thousand different philosophical persuasions who wake up every day thinking about how they can fight for children’s futures. Seriously, these folks are amazing.

But as much fun as I had wandering around Nashville and chatting with real-life educational superheroes, I couldn’t fully unplug from Colorado issues. In particular, readers who are politically inclined may have noticed that Colorado completed its primary elections on Tuesday. There was lots of hubbub around the Republican pick for the U.S. Senate race, and a good deal of chatter around some surprising state legislative primaries on both sides of the aisle. But very few people seem to have paid attention to primary results in one of the most important edu-areas: the Colorado State Board of Education. Continue Reading »

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June
23rd 2016
Investigating Dougco’s Independent Investigation

Posted under Douglas County & Education Politics & School Board

Let’s begin today’s post with a little bit of vocabulary. Merriam-Webster defines the word “independent” as:

a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion> (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party

c (1) :  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents> (2) :  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

Some of our friends in Douglas County, however, have chosen to use a more novel definition of the term when discussing the recent results of an independent investigation into bullying allegations against Dougco school board members Meghann Silverthorn and Judith Reynolds: That anyone who finds against their accusations cannot be independent. We’re going to spend some time dissecting that claim today. Continue Reading »

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June
21st 2016
Independent Investigation Clears Dougco Conservatives… And Raises Important Questions

Posted under Douglas County & Education Politics & Local Reform

Remember that student protest at Ponderosa High School in Douglas County back in March? I wrote then:

The cynical side of me believes that this is but the first step in the march toward a full-blown assault on Dougco’s (now one-seat) conservative majority in 2017.

As is usually (and depressingly) the case, my cynicism was well founded. The protest spawned a fabricated “bullying” fiasco that became the first major political play in what I believe is a wider game to purge conservative thought and policy from Douglas County School District. Now, however, it’s become clear that this particular political maneuver didn’t pan out as the establishment-minded board members Anne-Marie Lemieux, David Ray, and Wendy Vogel had hoped. Continue Reading »

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June
15th 2016
New Report Reviews Research on Educational Choice

Posted under Education Savings Accounts & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

I know this isn’t a “cool” thing to say, but I get really excited about new research. I eat up statistical analyses like most people eat donuts (I eat those, as well). But do you know what is way more exciting than a single new study on a fascinating education topic? A review of a whole bunch of tasty research.

Enter the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s new edition of “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” Written by Dr. Greg Forster, these reports are a great way to stay up to date with the latest research on educational choice. The last report was published in 2013, so this new edition brings a bunch of new information to the table. Continue Reading »

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June
10th 2016
Dougco’s Voucher Lawsuit Muddle Explained

Posted under Colorado Supreme Court & Constitution & Courts & Douglas County & Legal Issues & School Choice & United States Supreme Court

I got a lot of questions yesterday about yet another ruling on the Douglas County voucher program. Was this good news? Was it bad news? Which lawsuit was this anyway? What the heck is going on in Douglas County?

It occurred to me after about the 50th question that stuff has gotten pretty complicated when it comes to vouchers in Dougco. We’re going to dedicate today’s post to clearing up the confusion. After all, there’s nothing worse than being perplexed over the weekend.

Let’s start from the beginning. Most everyone probably remembers that the original Dougco voucher program was shot down by the Colorado Supreme Court almost a year ago thanks to our state’s icky Blaine Amendment. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the whole process was complicated by the tragic (in so, so many ways) death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the fact that SCOTUS had already taken a Blaine-related case out of Missouri.

The case remains in limbo somewhere in the echoing hallways of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the case at all. It will likely remain undecided for some time. But Douglas County didn’t want to wait to get a voucher program up and running, so it approved a new version that excludes faith-based schools in March 2016.

For those of you keeping score, this means that there are now two Dougco voucher programs out there. Continue Reading »

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