Archive for the 'School Board' Category

25th 2015
Top Secret School Board Candidate Briefing Materials Declassified

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & events & School Board

Last night, the Education Policy Center team finished the last of its five school board candidate briefings at the Independence Institute in Denver. This year’s briefings have garnered a fair amount of attention from anti-reform folks, including some pretty interesting conspiracy theories.

I am pleased to report that after talking it over with their evil right-wing overlords, the Ed Center’s staff members have been cleared to make the materials given to candidates publicly available. Not that they were really secret anyway; every school board candidate in the state was invited to the briefings regardless of his or her political opinions. All interested candidates had to do was sign a non-disclosure agreement, forfeit their firstborn children, submit to a lie detector test, and swear fealty to the Almighty Koch Brothers. No biggie, right?

Now, though, everyone can see these top secret materials without having to go through all that stuff. Admittedly, that isn’t terribly fair to the candidates who had to directly endure the aforementioned requirements–particularly those who went through our patented microchip implantation process. But I strongly suspect that others will find the information valuable, and the Education Policy Center is all about providing valuable information to those who need it.

I doubt the written materials will live up to the conspiratorial hype surrounding them, but that’s alright. Maybe the big, scary video (embedded below) featuring 24-year Jeffco teaching veteran Michael Alcorn’s advice for board members will make up for the anti-climactic shock of combing through a 40-page education policy document looking for secret codes that don’t exist.

One last note before I leave you to enjoy the video: There will be no Little Eddie posts next week. I know, I know. You’ll just have to do your best to contain your disappointment. See you in a couple weeks!

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21st 2015
Colorado Supreme Court Nixes Negative Factor Challenge

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

We’ve been talking a lot about the courts lately. Between the Dougco voucher decision, the ridiculous silliness going on in Thompson, and Washington’s bizarre decision that charter schools are unconstitutional, there hasn’t been much cause for celebration. I’ll admit to feeling pretty darn frustrated with the courts.

Now, many of the folks on the other side of reform aisle are also experiencing some court-driven frustration after roughly a year of waiting. Today’s 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Dwyer v. State of Colorado has cemented the legislature’s interpretation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution and the “Negative Factor” it spawned. Continue Reading »

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17th 2015
Thompson Majority Fights On for Local Control

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Teachers & Union

Most of you probably remember that there’s sort of a thing going on in Thompson School District. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. In actuality, Thompson now stands alongside Jefferson County as ground zero for one of the most important education battles in Colorado.

More specifically, Thompson has been engaged in an ugly fight with the Thompson Education Association, backed heavily by legal support from the Colorado Education Association, over the reform-minded board majority’s decision not to accept two junky tentative collective bargaining agreements. At the center of that fight is an incredibly important question: Can locally elected school boards be forced to accept union contracts with which they disagree?

The issue has drawn significant attention from around the state, including an editorial from the Denver Post supporting local school boards’ ability to make judgment calls under Colorado law. It has also resulted in a flabbergastingly awful non-binding arbitration report and, more recently, an unprecedented injunction ruling that forces the district to abide by the 2014-15 collective bargaining agreement—an agreement that the board has rejected in one form or another three separate times.

The board majority isn’t giving up, though. Last night, a 4-3 vote gave the district’s legal team the authority to appeal the injunction or pursue other remedies, whatever “other remedies” means in lawyerese. In practice, a favorable ruling on appeal would free the district of the collective bargaining agreement foisted on it by the Larimer County District Court and allow the board to get back to building policies to take care of its teachers in the absence of a union contract. Continue Reading »


11th 2015
Independence Institute “Indoctrinates” CO School Board Candidates with Helpful Policy Information

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

It’s hard to believe it’s Friday again. I’ve been scurrying around the Independence Institute office helping my policy friends get ready for their first of five 2015 Colorado School Board Candidate Briefings. This one was held in Loveland, Colorado, last night. Attendees received a presentation on Colorado education policy, and had a chance to ask questions of the policy folks. It was a great time!

But as my friend Ross Izard points out in a recent Greeley Tribune op-ed, Loveland is now ground zero for one of the most important education fights in the state. That means anti-reform forces north of the big city are busy shouting at the top of their lungs about the evils of education reform. Nowhere is that panicked shrieking more evident than on the Thompson School District Reform Watch Facebook page, which is absolutely stuffed with some of the most creative conspiracy theories I’ve ever seen.

Somewhat ironically given the page’s frequent complaints about a lack of transparency, the operators have chosen to remain anonymous. Hey, that’s their right. But because I like to talk the talk and walk the walk, feel free to check out the About Eddie page here on Ed is Watching if you’d like to learn more about me and the grown-ups who help me write these posts.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Among the Reform Watch page’s most recent posts are a number of pokes at the Loveland school board candidate briefing last night. Below are a few of my favorite snippets from posts over the last couple of days (screen captured just in case they get deleted):

The Independence Institute Saga continues…with holding regular seminars and training sessions, sometimes to unsuspecting and gullible citizens and candidates. As with their sister group, the Leadership Program of the Rockies, they are Americans for Prosperity, Friedman, KOCH and ALEC all rolled into one.

Last night the II was in Loveland with their Reform School Board Candidate Training Program. We are trying to get information on who all was in attendance at the Chop House for this event. The rumor mill has named some very interesting people who are not from the TSD communities. (See our Eye Opener post on Sep. 9th for the details of what these sessions are all about). We also know that the TSD candidates were invited.

When you take a look at the II website, remember that you are reading from the Americans for Prosperity Manual. At first, it may look good, but as they say “The Devil is in the Details”. Beware!! Continue Reading »


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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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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20th 2015
Eddie’s Crazy Idea: More Colo. Districts Should Pursue Student-Based Budgeting

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea! Why not have school districts base their budgeting on students like me (or any student, for that matter)? It just makes sense to do it that way, right? Especially since the whole K-12 education enterprise is supposed to be about the kids.

It’s not that simple, however, and it’s not usually the case. Things like staffing formulas and seniority rules — not to mention bureaucratic traditions and old-fashioned accounting systems — generally rule the day. But in Colorado, the practice of Student-Based Budgeting is on the rise:

Through student-based budgeting (SBB), six school districts have prioritized student need over administrative convenience with a cost-effective approach that places more funds under individual school control.

This is from one of those long issue papers by my Education Policy Center friends that little me may never get around to reading cover to cover. SBB isn’t terribly glamorous, nor (like any other reform) is it a silver bullet. Even so, I’ve learned just enough to know that it’s something that very much should be on your radar. Plus, it has a fun and inspiring cover: Continue Reading »

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14th 2015
Jeffco Leads the Way on Sensible Union Contract Changes

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Board & Union

I’ve got to be honest, the Denver Post’s Editorial Board has kind of been knocking my socks off recently. First, they wrote good, thoughtful columns on the Dougco voucher decision and the abuse of democracy that is the Jeffco recall. Now they’ve come out with a new column praising Jefferson County School District’s new tentative tentative agreement with the Jefferson County Education Association.

No, the second “tentative” is not a typo. As exciting as this new contract is, it still needs to be ratified by JCEA’s more than 3,000 members. That said, I join the Denver Post in praising Jeffco adults’ newfound ability to “gather their senses,” and I sincerely hope cooler heads will prevail when it comes to contract ratification among union members.

While we wait for the results of the union ratification vote scheduled for August 21, it’s helpful to take a look at why this agreement is such a big deal. From my edu-wonk perspective, it accomplishes some very important things:

  • Prioritizes teacher performance in cases of layoffs or displacements instead of basing these decisions solely on seniority. Under the current agreement, displacement decisions between teachers of equal seniority are decided not by effectiveness, but by “a flip of a coin between the teachers involved by a disinterested third party.” Nope, not kidding.
  • Eliminates the district’s responsibility to collect union dues through its payroll system
  • Eliminates privileged union access to district communication systems and facilities
  • Allows teachers to select their own representation during the grievance process rather than forcing them to utilize JCEA for such services
  • Eliminates taxpayer-subsidized union leave time, including for union officers
  • Significantly reduces the length and intrusiveness of the contract. For example, it lightens the burden of some excessively rigid class-size formulas, which allows for more flexibility at the school level.

Continue Reading »


13th 2015
A Rocketship Visit to Jeffco: More Than Just Eddie’s Big Dream?

Posted under Denver & High School & learning & math & Middle School & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & Suburban Schools

There’s a lot of attention on the school board politics in Jeffco these days. Dealing with it sometimes is a necessity. But to me it’s a shame, given the pockets of great need for students in the Jefferson and neighboring Alameda articulation areas, just west of Denver.

Last November I first highlighted the significant positive efforts for change, then followed it up with anticipation of an important March 5 Board vote to approve a hopeful plan of action. The Board ended up approving it unanimously!

Since that time I have been watching off and on (there are a bunch of things out there that Ed Is Watching), but have been remiss about providing an update. Yesterday, the good people at Chalkbeat Colorado published a piece about some specific efforts to upgrade academic standards at Jefferson High and surrounding schools: Continue Reading »

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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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