Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

August
28th 2015
Jeffco Union Prez Wants “Big Lift”; For Kids’ Sake, How About Some Peace?

Posted under Education Politics & learning & School Board & Teachers & Union

The school year is underway for nearly all Colorado kids. That includes all students in Jeffco Public Schools. Let’s calm down the heat and focus on a successful school year then, right? I sure hope so, but one group seems to be throwing a wrench into the situation.

Last night the Jeffco Board of Education “unanimously approved an agreement with the teachers union that governs how educators are hired, fired and paid.” We’re talking about a much better, leaner, more flexible union contract than the previous one — as my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow explained on Complete Colorado yesterday.

(Don’t tell Ben, but I learned something he didn’t. About the new salaries they agreed to: Because of the way the two sides agreed to fix the pay system to make it fairer, about 1,400 Jeffco teachers — more than one-quarter — come home with big take-home raises in 2015. This, after last year 99 percent of teachers got a salary boost, including 4.25 percent raises for highly effective educators. A total of $20 million this board has ADDED to teacher compensation.)

Beyond the pay increases, the contract opens the door to more important decisions made at the school level, more value on performance over seniority, more fairness and options for teachers, and maybe best of all: Teacher strike averted!

This is the same agreement the Denver Post hailed as a “good agreement” because “both sides aren’t fully happy.” It contains some positive developments for district teachers, and generally is less restrictive. So time to move onward and upward, to focus on excellence in classrooms and school buildings, to strive for more and better learning? Not so fast. Continue Reading »

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August
27th 2015
Respected Voices Highlight Importance of Reform Battles in Jeffco, Thompson

Posted under Education Politics & School Board

Yesterday, we took a look at a major school choice flub in the new PDK/Gallup national education poll. I was all set to offer some further comments on that poll this morning, but we’ll have to come back to that. Today we’ve got important stuff like the hugely important fights over local education reform in Jeffco and Thompson to talk about.

I got a little worked up last week thinking about the criticality of the education reform battles in Jeffco and Thompson. Yet I was long ago categorized as a five-year-old ideologue, so it’s easy enough for reform opponents to write me off by pointing out that my father is Charles Koch, or that I was born in a petri dish in a secret underground lab know only to members of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Neither of which I can confirm or deny, of course.

Now, though, more and more mainstream folks are beginning to talk about the significance of these two districts. Two pieces in particular stood out to me this morning during my daily romp through the news. Continue Reading »

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August
19th 2015
Thompson, Jeffco, and the Battle for the Soul of Colorado Education

Posted under Education Politics & Union

I’m not exactly a fortune teller, but every now and then I surprise myself with my prescience. Last May, I wrote a post just before Thompson’s second vote on an only slightly revised version of the first junky tentative agreement brought back from the negotiating table. The post was called “Thompson Gears up for the Final (?) Battle.” It turns out that question mark meant more than I knew back then.

The teachers union is many things, but timid is not among them. Still, I was legitimately surprised to see the tenacity with which they have opposed the Thompson reform majority’s attempts to make very reasonable changes to the district’s union contract—particularly because their bigger, meaner, more powerful cousin in Jeffco seems perfectly capable of making compromises. Well, other than that whole strike threat thing. While JCEA was busy actually negotiating, TEA was dragging the district into expensive non-binding arbitration proceedings and arguing that they don’t have a right to reject a tentative agreement with which they disagree under the current contract’s “good faith” provision.

Poppycock, you say. Colorado school boards have constitutional authority to exercise local control over their districts, and no statute requires a school board to even recognize a union in the first place. In fact, 140 of Colorado’s 178 school districts have no recognized union at all (you can find a full list of unionized districts here). You’re right, and the arbitrator agrees with you. Sort of. CEA, on the other hand, thinks you’re dead wrong. Continue Reading »

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August
12th 2015
Joyce Rankin Joins State Board of Ed

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Back in June, I used a precious Friday post to say goodbye to State Board of Education chairwoman Marcia Neal after her eyebrow-raising departure from the board. Last week, a 3rd Congressional District vacancy committee selected Marcia’s replacement: Joyce Rankin of Carbondale.

Today was Joyce’s first day on the job, and I want to take a few minutes to welcome her to the Colorado education scene. That’s not to say that she’ll need much of an introduction to the issues, however. From a Chalkbeat article about her selection for SBOE:

Rankin has a direct line to one legislator — her husband Bob, a House member who represents District 57 in northwestern Colorado. Rep. Rankin is a member of the Joint Budget Committee and has taken an interest in school finance issues.

Rankin has worked as her husband’s legislative aide and indicated that she plans to continue in that role. “I don’t see that’s going to be a problem at all,” she said, adding that her exposure to the legislative process should be an advantage in her board work …

… Inspired by a teacher, Rankin said she decided when she was in 5th grade to go into education. She holds education degrees from Michigan State University and San Jose State University and worked as a teacher and principal in California.

Continue Reading »

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August
6th 2015
Union Complaints Obscure Need for Fair, Level Playing Field

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Teachers & Union

It’s hard not being the only game in town. In two of Colorado’s largest school districts, the unions are used to having a privileged role in helping to run new teacher induction sessions.

This week leaders of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) complained to the media about this year’s changes, which give them the same treatment as other groups.

Colorado Public Radio first reported the story on Monday. It didn’t sit well with Denver union officials that they no longer sponsor the breakfast for their district’s new teacher orientation session.

Meanwhile, the JCEA spokesperson essentially acknowledged that his group has been accustomed to running the show. Not only has the union hosted a lunch but according to their spokesperson Scott Kwasny, they also “would sign in all the new teachers, collect their email addresses, and pass them on to the district.” Continue Reading »

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July
31st 2015
A(New)PUSH for Truth in American History

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Board

Yesterday, I highlighted a brave Jeffco mom who was willing to go on camera and thank the Jefferson County Board of Education majority for standing up for reform. I also ran through a distressingly lengthy list of inaccurate claims—maybe “fabrications” would be more appropriate—and downright disturbing revelations about the recall. Included on the list was a mention of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum framework, which I’d like to spend some more time on today.

Many of you remember the teacher sickouts and student walkouts last fall. Initially, we were told—amid many “ums” and “uhs”—that the protests were about the board’s move to a performance-based raise model. You already know how much (and why) I support pay-for-performance systems, but this one was exceptionally innocuous, providing raises to 99 percent of Jeffco teachers. Yes, 99 percent.

When that argument fell apart under the weight of pesky reality, the protests morphed into misleading statements about the board’s attempt to “censor” or “whitewash” American history by proposing the creation of a curriculum review committee to potentially examine, among many other things, the controversial Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum framework. You likely recall (heh) that the original, somewhat inflammatory proposal was never even truly introduced at the board table, that there were never any concrete plans to review or modify APUSH, and that no review of the framework was ever undertaken. The only outcome of the controversy was the creation of two new curriculum review committees that better represent a cross section of interested parties and community members.

I am personally of the opinion that no justification was ever required of the board’s desire to review district curricula of any kind given that such power is granted clearly and explicitly by Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution. I would certainly have felt differently had they actually made any true effort to “censor” history, but they didn’t. All that aside, though, it now appears that many concerns about APUSH have been vindicated. Continue Reading »

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July
30th 2015
Jeffco Mom Speaks Truth, Thanks School Board

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

One of the harder lessons I’m learning in my youth is that quite often tall tales can spread life a wildfire before the truth has a chance to catch up and extinguish it. Thanks to lots of help from Complete Colorado, I’ve already pointed out the fact-challenged / math-challenged nature of the Jeffco school board recall. That’s the “wildfire.”

And some of the big people who really follow closely the K-12 educational goings-on just west of Denver — namely, Jeffco Students First — have posted a concise one-page fact sheet that effectively extinguishes some of the more egregious misinformation floating out there against reform-minded school board members.

The icing on this cake of tasty, truth-restoring goodness is a brand new 90-second video of a Jeffco mom thanking the school board for listening to families like hers that have kids who need different options to learn and thrive. Time to cue up Jennifer Butts: Continue Reading »

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July
28th 2015
A Tale of Two Standards? Who Can Reject a Proposed Union Contract?

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Union

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. So begins one of the most famous novels of the last 200 years: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m too little to know what it’s all about. But the idea of making a clear and direct contrast just seemed to fit so well.

When it comes to teachers union leaders’ views, we may have a case of “binding contracts for thee, but not for me.” Double standards can be rather convenient, can’t they?

On the very same day, last Friday, two parallel stories appeared. First, from my favorite education reporter, Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif, about an arbitration hearing between the Thompson Board of Education and the Thompson Education Association: Continue Reading »

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July
16th 2015
Senate Passes Bipartisan NCLB Rewrite

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & School Accountability & Testing

On Tuesday, we visited the faraway land of U.S. Congress, where the U.S. House recently (and narrowly) passed a sweeping reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. I had planned on using today’s post to offer a brief update on the U.S. Senate’s ongoing NCLB reauthorization efforts today, but then those crafty senators went and passed the darn thing. So yeah, we’re going to talk about that.

The Senate’s effort has been spearheaded by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), who have been working hard to build a bill that could garner bipartisan support in the Senate. If votes are any indication, it looks like that effort was successful; the bill passed this afternoon on an 81-17 vote. I don’t know how much attention you pay to Congress (or even how much you should), but that’s pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that it appears to have sailed through with relatively little drama on the floor. Continue Reading »

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July
14th 2015
ESEA Reauthorization Grinds Forward in Congress

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & School Accountability & School Finance & Teachers & Testing

Colorado’s education scene is so interesting—and the federal education scene so ugly—that I rarely feel the need to drag our conversations beyond our state’s borders. Yet sometimes we have to force ourselves to look at what’s going on inside the Beltway, especially when the federal sausage-making process has the potential to touch Colorado in a big way. The ongoing ESEA reauthorization effort is just such a case.

For those distracted by summer weather and local education fights like the ones in Jefferson County and Thompson, Congress has been hard at work trying to finally reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which we currently know as No Child Left Behind. I was less than optimistic about the effort after HR 5 was denied a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year, but things appear to be moving along. Sort of.

Just last week, the House very narrowly passed (218-213) a rewrite of the law that goes further than the original HR 5. Continue Reading »

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