Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

July
1st 2015
Denver Post Editors Hit Back-to-Back Homers for Students, Parents

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

My dad told me about these crinkly pieces of paper with print on them that people used to get, something they would read to find out what’s going on in the world. I guess they’re called “newspapers”? Apparently, some websites actually have newspapers, or so I’m told.

The last few days, the editors of one of these publications, the Denver Post, have got me thinking maybe I should take a look. Because I’m definitely taking heart. First, there was the ruling in the Douglas County choice scholarship case. You already may have seen my reaction to that.

How crazy is it then that yours truly almost could have written the Post editorial that came out shortly thereafter, titled “A regrettable ruling on Dougco’s school voucher program”: Continue Reading »

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June
29th 2015
Dougco Decision Brings Good News and Bad

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Choice

By now, my faithful readers should be familiar with Douglas County School District’s embattled first-of-its-kind local voucher program, the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP). I was super excited about an amicus brief written by my friends at the Friedman Foundation and the Independence Institute way back in August of last year, and could barely contain myself during oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court last December. It’s been a very, very long wait since then. That wait is now over, though the news is both good and bad.

The bad news is that while the court did decide that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring a taxpayer suit under the School Finance Act, it also ruled that the CSP is unconstitutional under Article IX, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution. That section, frequently called a Blaine Amendment, ostensibly prohibits the state from providing direct aid to religious institutions, including religious private schools.

However, other high court rulings have found that vouchers are designed to provide aid to students, not to the religious institutions themselves. I’ll spare you the legal citations (you know how I feel about legalese) and let my big policy friends do the detailed analysis. Cato’s Jason Bedrick and the Friedman Foundation’s Brittany Corona have already started down that road, and my Independence Institute friends will do the same tomorrow.

For now, the quick and dirty is this: Both U.S. and Colorado legal precedent shows that parental choice breaks the link between government and religious institutions. If a parent chooses to send his or her child to a religious school, that’s just fine. As long as parents aren’t compelled to send their kids to religious schools, any benefit to those schools is indirect and incidental.

Apparently not concerned about this issue, a plurality (notably different than a majority) of Colorado’s justices applied a very broad “plain language” interpretation of this amendment in the full Dougco decision. This argument states, in effect, that no state money can ever be used to support and sustain a religious institution, even if that support is indirect or incidental. Continue Reading »

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June
26th 2015
Jeffco School Board Recall Underway: What’s Really Going On?

Posted under Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

It’s Friday afternoon in the summertime. I should be kicking back and enjoying the great outdoors, maybe playing in the pool or racing my remote-controlled cars.

But no. Teachers union leaders hide behind a group of parents to file a recall petition against the three conservative Jeffco school board members:

One of the stated reasons for the recall is the board majority’s consideration of reviewing the new Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum, which prompted waves of student protests in the suburban Denver district last year. But the group also accuses the members of meeting in secret and wasting taxpayer money, including paying the superintendent they hired $280,000.

So really… that’s it? Hire a superintendent for slightly more than his predecessor, at a rate comparable to or less than other large Colorado school district superintendents? Not increase transparency enough? Or maybe it really is based on the clever rewrite of history to concern people about non-existent censorship?

Sigh. Wonder what the #MeanGirlz think about all this? Maybe they grew tired of bullying the same old staff members. Continue Reading »

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June
19th 2015
Thompson and Jeffco Stand up for Fair Charter Funding

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & School Choice & School Finance

Last Friday, pressing Colorado education news forced us to do a less-than-happy Friday post. This week, pressing Colorado education news is forcing us to do a fantastically happy blog post. I guess my dad was right. It really does all even out in the end.

Today’s big news is that two of our favorite districts, Jefferson County and Thompson, passed budgets this week that reflect more equitable funding for charter school students. The move toward funding equalization was driven by reform majorities on both district school boards. From Sherrie Peif’s latest Complete Colorado story:

Jefferson County Public School District and the Thompson School District both agreed to shift some of the districts’ money to the charter schools, and in the case of Thompson, dipped into district reserves to provide additional funding for charter students …

… In Thompson, $450,000 was set aside for the district’s two charter schools, New Vision and Loveland Classical. The increase works out to about $400 per student. Of the additional money, $191,000 will go to New Vision and $260,000 to Loveland Classical …

… In JeffCo, an additional $2.5 million was set aside to fund the district’s 16 charter schools. The new money is in addition to $5.6 million that was budgeted in 2014-15 after the board learned it would take about $7.4 million to fully equalize mill levy override funding for the district’s charters.

Continue Reading »

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June
18th 2015
Performance-Based Learning, Strategic Compensation Keep My Eyes on Mesa 51

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Testing & Union

When it comes to K-12 education, I tell you a lot about what’s going on in the Denver area and along the Front Range. That’s where most people in our state live. But Colorado is a big place, and it’s good for me to keep expanding my horizons.

One of those places is called the Western Slope. The largest school district out there is Mesa Valley 51. A lot of times it’s just hard for little me to get a good look at what’s taking place on the other side of the mountains.

I appreciate the big step ladder provided by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which includes an Emily Shockley article yesterday that points to big things happening in Mesa 51, namely a forward-thinking system of competency-based (or “performance-based”) learning. It will launch in seven schools this fall: Continue Reading »

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June
15th 2015
Fact Checking the Fact Checkers: Counting Local Teachers Unions in Colorado

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers & Union

We’ve spent an awful lot of time recently debunking (or at least very critically reviewing) stuff. We beat up a bologna study on school choice, poked holes in a school finance study that made some weird assumptions, poked some more holes in even more school finance reports,  and took a very close look at the claim that reform is causing an “exodus” of Colorado teachers. Today, we continue the trend by examining the facts about the number of local teachers unions in Colorado.

As most of you know, there’s a big fight going on in Thompson School District, where four conservative members of the district’s school board have twice shot down junky tentative agreements brought back from the negotiating table. This has led local (and, I suspect, non-local) union backers to take to the area’s biggest newspaper with a variety of vituperative letters to the editor.

Recently, a number of these letters have focused on refuting several board members’ claims that most Colorado school districts do not have recognized teachers unions. One letter in particular stands out by calling the statement a “bald-faced lie.” This letter also asserts that CEA itself states that it has 200 local associations, which is true enough. However, it goes on to argue that this automatically means every one of Colorado’s 178 (the letter incorrectly says 179) school districts must have a recognized teachers union.

Not quite. Continue Reading »

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June
12th 2015
State Board Resignation Raises Eyebrows

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & State Board of Education

I wanted to do a fun Friday story today. I really did. But duty calls, and we need to talk about something important in Colorado education: The resignation of Chairwoman Marcia Neal from the Colorado State Board of Education.

Many of you are already familiar with Marcia, but here’s a quick bio for those of you who may not be fully plugged into the Colorado education scene. The short version is that she taught for 21 years and served on the Mesa County School Board for eight more years before heading to SBOE, where she’s been for the past six years.

Marcia’s departure comes on the heels of some pretty weird (and weirder) occurrences on the State Board, particularly in areas related to testing. It also coincides pretty obviously with the departure of Education Commissioner Robert Hammond and, according to the Denver Post, four other executive-level employees at the Colorado Department of Education. Colorado education veteran Elliott Asp will serve as an interim commissioner until a permanent replacement for Hammond is hired. Continue Reading »

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May
27th 2015
Students’ Walk in the PARCC Gets a Little Shorter

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

It wasn’t too long ago that we were in the midst of a high-stakes game of legislative testing chicken.  The Great Testing Debate of 2015 eventually ground to a (sort of) conclusion that involved reducing the amount of testing overall and creating a pilot program to look into new possibilities on the testing front. Yes, I remember that I promised you a breakdown of that big, messy compromise a while back. No, we aren’t going to do that today.

Oh, stop looking so disappointed. We have plenty of time in the coming weeks to get our edu-nerd on when it comes to testing frequency and pilot programs. But as my policy friends Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard pointed out in a joint op-ed near the end of the legislative session, discussions about the tests being used–and how to make them better–are equally important.

That’s why I was glad to read last week that the PARCC consortium will be cutting down on both the amount of time students will spend taking tests and the logistical headaches caused by administering tests in two separate windows. Education Week provides a nice summary of the changes: Continue Reading »

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May
21st 2015
Thompson Board Stands Firm on Bad Contract; Union Backers Go Haywire

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Yesterday I prepped you for the big vote and showdown at last night’s Thompson school board meeting on whether to accept the proposed union contract update. I told you it could go one of two ways: Either the return to the drawing board 1) resulted in some reasonable solutions to board director concerns that could be adopted, or 2) the board would take the historic step of rejecting the contract.

In case you haven’t heard, the city of Loveland witnessed Option #2 unfold. By a vote of 4-3, the union contract failed again. By collaborating to ignore nearly all the concerns raised, union leaders and district bureaucrats effectively dared the school board to stand firm or fail. The Reporter-Herald‘s Pamela Johnson quoted remarks from most of the board members, including president Bob Kerrigan: Continue Reading »

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May
20th 2015
Thompson Gears Up for the Final (?) Battle

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers & Union

We’ve talked an awful lot about Thompson School District recently. And why wouldn’t we? The district and its reform majority are, after all, at the very forefront of Colorado’s ongoing—and increasingly nasty—education reform wars. The board’s attempt to build a smarter, better union contract that does right by both its students has been met with stiff resistance from both the Thompson Education Association and its big political brother, the Colorado Education Association.

First CEA stepped into the fray by pushing a phony petition designed to block an attempt at providing the district’s negotiating team with written guidance on how to proceed. Shortly thereafter, the board rejected a laughably bad attempt at a tentative agreement. The negotiating teams were sent back to the table to take another stab at the contract on May 12. The rejection of the first tentative agreement was quickly followed by two relatively small, sadly misinformed student “rallies” not entirely dissimilar to those we saw in Jefferson County last fall.

It’s safe to say that things haven’t been pretty in Thompson. Tonight, it all comes to a head. Continue Reading »

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