Archive for the 'School Finance' Category

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:


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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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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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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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21st 2015
Close Look at Diverse Charter Options Helps to Tell Us What Parents Want

Posted under Denver & learning & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Urban Schools

What do parents want? I’m not sure why people bring this question to me. Based on my somewhat limited experience, I tend to think the answer has something to do with keeping rooms clean, eating fruits and vegetables, minding manners, and not breaking things. When it comes to a child’s education, I think there’s more to the story.

Looking back over the last year-plus, it’s been a banner stretch for focusing on a diverse body of meaningful charter school research. It started with Marcus Winters’ Denver special education myth-buster. Winters has compiled the findings of his Denver and New York City research in a new piece for Education Next:

The conventional argument that charters enroll relatively few students with disabilities because they “counsel out” special needs students after they enroll is inconsistent with the enrollment data. In fact, students with disabilities are less likely to exit charter elementary schools than they are to exit district schools. More students with IEPs enter charter schools in non-gateway grades than exit them.

Beyond that important research, the following findings make for a fairly comprehensive and insightful list of mostly positive news since mid-2014: Continue Reading »

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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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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 »


24th 2015
Big Bucks or Big Misconception? Report Sheds Light on Philanthropy in Charter Sector

Posted under Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Finance

Last Friday, we celebrated votes in two of my favorite districts, Jeffco and Thompson, to provide more equitable funding to charter school students. In that post, I briefly mentioned that there were some inaccurate anti-equitability arguments floating around before the board votes. We’re going to tackle one of those misconceptions today: The argument that charters do not need more funding because they pull in untold sums of money from philanthropic sources.

First, though, a disclaimer: We will not be playing the irritating fill-in-the-blank game that often crops up in charter funding discussions. You know the one. It involves a statement that goes something like this: “Charters receive all their money from [INSERT SCARY ORGANIZATION OR INDIVIUDAL NAME]!”

Anti-charter folks really love to go down this road from time to time, and they do occasionally come up with some pretty entertaining conspiracy theories. Even so, we’re going to stick with the numbers. I’ve never much cared for black helicopters, anyway. They’d be much cooler with green polka dots.

Fortunately, we have plenty of numbers to stick with thanks to a brand spanking new report from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform. Continue Reading »

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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.

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9th 2015
New Funding Reports Try to Sound the Alarms, But Simply Don’t Add Up

Posted under Research & School Finance

Are you interested in new K-12 “research” that creates new ways to measure funding, obsesses over inputs, rests on logical leaps, AND challenges its own claims? Well, then I have a couple reports for you!

The headlines create such drama:

Sure, the United States stands at or near the top of the world’s rankings in per-pupil spending, yet its students finish well below that on measures of math and science achievement. But somehow a disaster is looming, if we don’t spend more money. Or is it that money isn’t being spent equitably? Or both?

Let’s start with the Education Law Center’s “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card.” As its title suggests, the report purports to focus on the issue of whether states provide “fair funding” based on student poverty. Continue Reading »

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