Archive for February, 2013

28th 2013
Overcome with Excitement Today: Appeals Court Revives Dougco Choice Program!

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

I am going to be catching my breath all day, I’m so excited by this fantastic news from the Colorado Court of Appeals today:

DENVER—The Independence Institute, Colorado’s leading pro-freedom policy voice, praised today’s decision to restore a groundbreaking school choice program previously struck down by a Denver judge.

The Colorado Court of Appeals today overturns an August 2011 ruling that permanently enjoined the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. A majority of the three-judge panel ruled that plaintiffs “failed to carry their burden of proving the unconstitutionality of the CSP beyond a reasonable doubt” and that they lack standing to make their case.

(A copy of the opinion is posted at Continue Reading »


27th 2013
Hip KIPP, Hooray! Major Research Shows Big Learning Gains for Challenged Students

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

A powerful research report released today from a big study confirms what anyone paying attention to the urban charter school movement already should have noticed. KIPP produces big gains for students:

KIPP middle schoolers learn significantly more than comparison students, concludes a report by Mathematica Policy Research on 43 schools in 13 states plus the District of Columbia. Three years after enrollment, the average KIPP student gained an extra 11 months in math, moving from the 44th to the 58th percentile, and eight months in reading, moving from the 46th to the 55th percentile. Science gains equalled an extra 14 months and social studies an extra 11 months.

Following up on research released in the summer of 2010, Mathematica confirmed earlier findings that KIPP doesn’t benefit from attracting more gifted students than those left behind in surrounding schools. Mike Feinberg, the cage-busting co-founder of the national, no-excuses charter school network, notes among other findings: Continue Reading »


26th 2013
Non-Union Kansas Teacher Groups Try for Equal Snow Fort–Er, School–Access

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Journalism & State Legislature & Teachers

The last couple days I’ve been pretty busy playing outside, given all the snow we’ve been covered with here in Colorado. You should see the snow fort my friends and I put together in my backyard. We’ve set it up so no one else can get in — especially icky girls! If you try, beware of a barrage of icy cold snow balls!!

Apparently, that’s kind of like the attitude many teachers union officials have about schools. They’re a little more sophisticated about it, of course, writing rules that keep competing professional associations outside school walls so teachers can never hear from them. An almost-hot-off-the-virtual-presses School Reform News article by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow tells how some teachers are urging Kansas lawmakers to change the policy: Continue Reading »

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21st 2013
Let’s Figure Out How PERA Can Fit Into Colo. School Finance Reform Debates

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Research & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

The long-awaited draft of the big school finance reform bill (144 pages in all its glory) is finally here this week. You can rest assured I will have more to say in the coming days as my Education Policy Center friends dig more deeply into it.

For now, I just have to say how glad I am that Colorado’s state treasurer Walker Stapleton is trying to bring another very important issue into the conversation:

The fiscally conservative treasurer points out that the PERA board has released reports indicating that by 2018, 20.15 percent of the budget for teacher salaries will be directed to PERA.

Continue Reading »


20th 2013
Transparency and a Collaborative Mirage: A Tale of Three Colorado School Districts

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers

A clever wag once famously said: “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch.” Some other smart-aleck might have reason to make a similar remark about K-12 education: “Collaboration is district leaders and union leaders deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money.” Except that those taxpayers too often are left in the dark.

Education Week‘s Stephen Sawchuk recently offered up a glowing report on how the superintendent and then-union president of Colorado’s largest school district “teamed up to solve a budget crunch” in 2011. High praise for Jefferson County‘s Cindy Stevenson and JCEA’s Kerrie Dallman, but there is more to the story.

A critic in the Ed Week piece notes, however, that the process lacked needed transparency even as negotiators rejected the ideas brought forward by parents and community members. Two years of furlough days came that hurt families, while calls to ask a little more in retirement contributions from employees fell on deaf ears.

That reticent likely had something to do with anticipating what since has played out to the north in Adams 12. Last year, after cutting middle school sports and transportation without union protest, the school board there asked all the employee groups to pick up a little more of their PERA costs to avoid layoffs and increased class sizes. Everyone signed on except the DTEA. The union waited months to communicate this disagreement over PERA with the teachers they are supposed to represent. Continue Reading »


18th 2013
Latest Dougco Lawsuit Suggests Little Beyond Need for Presidential Limelight

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Since it’s Presidents Day today, it seems somewhat fitting to write about a local teachers union president seeking some limelight with a Friday lawsuit:

The Douglas County Federation of Teachers filed two lawsuits Friday, alleging that the Douglas County School District illegally didn’t consider teachers for job openings after being laid off and that it wrongly eliminated a bank of sick leave days.

“This is about treating teachers fairly and professionally, and acting within the law,” DCFT President Brenda Smith said in a news release. “The teachers who were downsized out of a job are veteran teachers with 60 plus years of experience between them.”

Continue Reading »

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15th 2013
Heartbroken by Choice Bill Defeats, Hoping for Some Scholarship Tax Credit Love

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Homeschooling & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Tax Credits

I tend not to get into all the icky Valentine’s Day stuff (flowers, pink hearts, greeting cards), except to the extent I can stuff my face with candy. Even so, some events that transpired yesterday at the Capitol nearly broke my heart.

Ed News Colorado reports on the Thursday afternoon state senate committee hearing that resulted in the sad and awkward — but given political realities, not terribly surprising — death of two tax credit bills that would have increased students’ educational options. Senate Bill 131 would have provided up to a $500 credit for families who pay for an outside “education or academic enrichment service.” The only downer on SB 131 was the small negative impact forecast for the state budget.

Also going down on a 4-4 vote, Senate Bill 69 would have provided a direct credit to families paying private school tuition (up to 50 percent of state per pupil revenue) or home school expenses (up to $1,000). The Colorado Education Association lobbyist expressed skepticism at the nonpartisan fiscal analysis showing the proposal would save tax dollars, claiming instead that research of an Arizona program showed a negative impact on that state’s treasury. Continue Reading »

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14th 2013
Research Ought to Give Second Thoughts about Government Preschool Programming

Posted under Early Childhood & Education Politics & Federal Government & Research & School Finance

It’s been almost two years since I last brought your attention to the overwhelming research findings that the nearly-50-year-old Head Start program has not made a real difference in education outcomes. But a new Wall Street Journal story by Stephanie Banchero points out that some federal officials appear intent on doubling down.

In an article last month, Heritage Foundation scholars not only summarized the lackluster findings regarding the latest Head Start research but also some disturbing news about how it was released: Continue Reading »

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13th 2013
Use Real School Funding Facts and Tell the Story that Empowers Families

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & School Finance

A few weeks ago an article by the I-News Network (“an independent, nonprofit journalism project that creates long-form investigative reports, in partnership with major daily newspapers and has recently accepted significant funding from wealthy Democrat activist Tim Gill”) portrayed Colorado minorities as victims of inadequate tax funding of education:

Regardless of which way the causal arrow runs, poverty and education are intertwined across the range of societal distress. Several experts said the state’s pullback in funding education over the past two decades has narrowed the path for escaping poverty.

Between 1992 and 2010, according to Census data, Colorado plunged from 24th to 40th on overall state spending per student for K-12 education. When compared to per capita personal income, Colorado ranked 45th among the states on K-12 spending.

Today The Gazette in Colorado Springs published a powerful response from my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow: Continue Reading »

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12th 2013
DougCo Board Opponents’ “Crazy” Real Estate Rumor Debunked By Facts

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

These are momentous days in Douglas County, Colorado. A 60,000-student school district charting new horizons for parental choice and academic excellence through cutting-edge, performance-based systems? An organized labor interest group frustrated at being stripped of monopoly power? Yes and yes. A lot of eyes are watching what unfolds in the growing suburbs south of Denver.

While we wait for the Colorado Court of Appeals to weigh in on the fate of student educational opportunity through the district’s groundbreaking Choice Scholarship Program,opponents of the bold, outside-the-box school board have been trying to make waves. Continue Reading »

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