Archive for the 'School Finance' Category

August
19th 2016
Louisiana’s Lesson: Attacking Private School Choice Hurts Public School Districts

Posted under Educational Choice & Research & School Finance & Vouchers

Buckle up, friends. We’re heading back to Louisiana for today’s post. Figuratively, of course—Louisiana isn’t exactly somewhere I’d like to be in person right now. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe down there.

The good news is that we get to remain dry (literally and figuratively) in our chairs and take a look at yet more research related to educational choice in Louisiana, this time on the financial consequences of scaling back the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). Those who argue that private school choice sucks money out of public education may want to brace themselves; today’s post may cause severe damage to their inaccurate worldview. 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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June
6th 2016
State Board Tackles Not-So-Super Subgroups

Posted under Accountability & Rural Schools & School Accountability & School Finance & State Board of Education & Taxpayers

Mondays are good days to roll up our sleeves and bury ourselves in education policy arcana. This Monday is a particularly good day to do that; on Wednesday, the Colorado State Board of Education will decide the fate of a complicated but important proposal related to our state’s school and district accountability system.

The proposal deals with the use of “super subgroups” (also called “combined subgroups”), which aggregate subgroups of students—minority, at-risk, English-language learner (ELL), and special education—into a single bucket for accountability purposes under Colorado’s school and district performance frameworks (SPFs and DPFs). Pushed by some school districts, interest groups, and the Colorado Department of Education, the shift toward combined subgroups is strongly opposed by a large, diverse coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum. Careful observers will note that one of those organizations is the Independence Institute, which I happen to be rather fond of.

Why is the Independence Institute involved? To understand that, you have to understand the issue in a little more detail. Brace yourself, thar be wonkery ahead. Continue Reading »

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June
1st 2016
COPs and Robbers: A Tale of Two Jeffco Schools

Posted under Fiscal Responsibility & Jefferson County Public Schools & School Board & School Finance

It’s been a little while since we talked about Jeffco, but I couldn’t resist chiming in on a CBS 4 story proudly declaring that the district has broken ground on a “brand-new K-8 school” in Arvada’s Candelas development. The construction of a new school wouldn’t normally merit a blog post, but this particular school carries such political baggage and symbolic value that it’s impossible to ignore.

If you dig deep into the locked container in your head labeled “Jeffco Recall 2015,” you’ll probably remember a bit of a kerfuffle last year about the proposed use of certificates of participation to finance new school construction in Jefferson County. COPs, as they’re colloquially known, exist mostly as an end-run around TABOR in that they allow governments to incur long-term debt without voter approval. The Independence Institute’s Josh Sharf explains it like this:

The government, in this case a school district, transfers some asset, usually a building or set of buildings, to a special-purpose entity set up specifically to administer the COP.  That entity – not the school district itself – then floats the bond on the municipal bond market.  It then leases the buildings back to the school district for lease payments that match the bond payments.  It is those lease payments that secure the debt.  In addition, the lease comes up for annual review by the school board which, in theory, could refuse to renew.

If that sounds a little shady to you, you’re not alone. Continue Reading »

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May
4th 2016
Inadequate Funding or Inadequate Information?

Posted under Education Politics & Media & School Finance

Welcome back, friends. I apologize for my absence during the second half of last week. Do you have any idea how busy an intrepid policy explorer like myself gets in the closing weeks of the legislative session? Plus, I had to carve out some extra time to watch interesting education TV shows hosted by my Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard. See here for a segment on charter funding equity, and here for one of my favorite Colorado private schools, Arrupe Jesuit High School.

I’m sorry I left you hanging. But now we’re back. And we’ve got some serious edu-policy work to do. Today’s topic: school finance in Colorado. No, no. Don’t run. I promise it’ll be (mostly) painless.

I started thinking about how important it is to get accurate information out there about school finance in Colorado when I read a Colorado Public Radio story about our state’s supposed failure to adequately fund its public schools despite a “booming” economy. Continue Reading »

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April
15th 2016
It’s Time for Fairness for Colorado Charter Students

Posted under Colorado General Assembly & Legislation & Public Charter Schools & School Finance

Earlier this week, we celebrated the addition of some exciting new numbers to a Colorado Department of Education spreadsheet. Today, we’re going to talk about a new bill that will make some existing spreadsheet numbers—numbers with dollar signs in front of them—a whole lot more equitable for Colorado charter schools.

In case you missed it, there was a big press conference down at the Capitol last week, at which a bipartisan group of charter supporters unveiled a package designed to fairly fund Colorado’s charter kids. SB 16-188 would require school districts to—wait for it—actually fund all of their public school students equitably rather than playing favorites. Or, as Chalkbeat put it in the article linked above:

Charter school advocates Thursday launched an effort to gain what they call a “more equitable” share of local funding through two bills to be introduced in the state Senate.

I take issue with the pseudo-sarcastic use of quotation marks around “more equitable,” which seem to subtly imply that there might not be a real problem here. I assure you there is. As a matter of fact, let’s take a few minutes to talk about that problem. Continue Reading »

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November
3rd 2015
Elections and Budget Gaps Make for a Really Interesting Education Week

Posted under Education Politics & School Finance & State Legislature

Tonight is the night, my friends. Tonight is the night that the future of local education reform is decided in our backyards. You can bet that Ed will be watching the events unfold, and that I’ll be giving you a full report tomorrow. You can also watch a few of the big districts, including Jeffco and Dougco, on the nifty Chalkbeat election tracker.

I’m hoping Chalkbeat will add Thompson, Adams 12, and Colorado Springs 11 (and District 38) before tonight, but that probably won’t happen. I’d also love to see Steamboat included, especially given recent developments there. Fortunately, you can follow those results directly (assuming the counties are on their game) through the relevant county websites by clicking the name of the district in the sentences above.

I know we’ve all got some butterflies in our stomachs today, so let’s not linger too long on the elections. Instead, let’s talk about budgeting. Nothing calms people down faster than making them look at a bunch of numbers, right?

Not in this case. Yesterday, Governor John Hickenlooper’s office put forward a new budget plan that forecasts a $373 million funding gap. That alone is likely to raise a few eyebrows and turn some folks red. The proposed balancing remedies may actually cause heads to explode as if someone turned up their phasers a bit too high. You know, like this:

via GIPHY

Continue Reading »

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October
29th 2015
Look Under the District 38 School Board Campaign Mask

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Union

The week of Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I can practically taste the candy in my mouth right now. One of the perks of being a perpetual 5-year-old is the unending chance to go Trick-or-Treat year after year without any sense of self-consciousness or guilt.

It also happens to be nearing the peak of crazy season with school board elections a mere 5 days away. I wish these two simultaneous happenings were just an unhappy coincidence. There’s more than meets the eye, though.

In the past, little yours truly has dressed as Mr. Potato Head and the Incredible Hulk. This time around, I’m going as a Super Secret Ninja Spy. Yet while Halloween-style dress up and make believe is perfectly fine for the younger set, that’s not so much the case when it comes to important races deciding who sits on school boards.

Coming to mind quickly, of course, is the union-backed “Clean Slate” candidates in Jeffco who claim to be independent in the nonpartisan election, while spending nearly two-thirds of all their campaign funds on Mad Dog Mail, “a Florida-based advertising firm that works exclusively with Democrats.”

Meanwhile, up in Thompson, you have incumbent school board member Denise Montagu not reporting $2,500 given by the Colorado Education Association, and then returning the same-sized contribution from another out-of-town teachers union.

A truly prime example can be found, though, in one of the lower profile Board of Education races, in northern El Paso County’s Lewis Palmer School District 38. There, as in a number of districts this year, some reform-minded candidates are opposing candidates who are more closely connected with the K-12 establishment. Continue Reading »

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September
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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August
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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