Archive for the 'State Legislature' Category

February
2nd 2016
Abominable Snowbills Look to Gut Accountability in Colorado

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s snowing outside. Like, a lot. The good news is that the snowstorm means I get to hang out at home, drink hot chocolate, and make snow angels. The bad news is that there is an approximately 63 percent higher chance of attack by abominable snowmen like this one:

View post on imgur.com


Okay, that’s a lie. Abominable snowmen aren’t real (I hope). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t abominable things afoot—like bills gutting accountability, performance pay systems, and tenure reform.

I’m sure you all recall that my Independence Institute friend Ross Izard is a big believer in accountability and tenure reform. He recently co-authored a Denver Post op-ed on the importance of these things. Last session, he wrote a big, long article on the dangers of Republicans mistakenly teaming up with the teachers union to dismantle accountability systems. Ross is working on updating that article for this year, but we’ll go ahead and get a head start today. Abominable snowbills wait for no one.

The two bills in question are HB 1121 and SB 105. HB 1121 would enable local school boards to pass policies allowing teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) to only be evaluated every three years. Currently teachers are evaluated every year, though we still haven’t gotten around to fully implementing SB 191’s strengthened evaluations.

As a quick refresher, SB 191 requires that 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations be comprised of multiple measures student growth data (no, not just from the much-maligned state tests). The other 50 percent is made up of what I consider to be subjective judgments based on observations in the classroom. The student growth data is important, as it pushes back against the “Widget Effect,” which saw nearly 100 percent of teachers rated effective or better year after year under strictly subjective evaluation systems. Unfortunately, SB 191′s evaluation system has been on hold for a while as accountability opponents and the teachers union do everything they can do delay or disrupt implementation.

SB 105, which is being supported by a “bipartisan” group of senators that makes me feel like I’ve fallen into Bizzaro World, forgoes any pretense and just murders SB 191 entirely. It removes the 50 percent requirement for student growth in educator evaluations, forbids school districts from using student growth in evaluations in any amount exceeding 20 percent (an apparently arbitrary number that flies in the face of the research on the subject), and makes so local school boards can allow teachers and principals with effective or better ratings to pass on evaluations for up to three years—no extra certification required. Continue Reading »

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January
27th 2016
Celebrating National School Choice Week 2016

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Legislation & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Does everybody know what time it is? No, not Tool Time. Do I look like Tim Allen to you?

It’s National School Choice Week! This year’s National School Choice Week is a big one, with 16,140 events scheduled around the country, including 318 here in Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper joined 31 other governors and 240 municipal and county leaders from across the country—the mayors of Denver, Aurora, Greeley, Lakewood, Thornton, and county leaders from Sedgwick County among them—in issuing an official proclamation that this week is all about school choice. Awesome.

In keeping with my yearly tradition of using videos to entertain you during this important time rather than relying solely upon my acid wit, we will celebrate here on Ed is Watching by… well, watching some cool videos.

But before you settle in with your popcorn or Sour Patch Kids or whatever tasty snacks education policy nerds eat while watching school choice videos, I have an important announcement: There will be a very big, very fun, and yes, very yellow National School Choice Week rally on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol tomorrow morning (January 28) at 11:30 a.m.  Be there, or forever suffer the knowledge that you missed out on great speakers like former Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien and new Colorado Commissioner of Education Rich Crandall, happy kids, and fuzzy yellow scarves. Continue Reading »

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January
22nd 2016
Begging for Tire Scraps: SCOTUS Takes MO Blaine Case

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Constitution & Douglas County & State Legislature

Yesterday, we talked Dougco. Because I’m a fan of loosely connected thematic writing, we’re going to do the same today in a more peripheral sense. Don’t worry, today’s post will include markedly less discussion about the nether regions of the male body.

Some of you may remember that there was a pretty important—and pretty disappointing—Colorado Supreme Court decision about Dougco’s local voucher program last June. The program was struck down under an incredibly broad interpretation of our state’s Blaine Amendment. The decision was so sweeping, in fact, that Justice Allison Eid had this to say about it in a dissenting opinion:

Today, the plurality interprets Article IX, Section 7 as prohibiting the expenditure of any state funds that might incidentally or indirectly benefit a religious school. This breathtakingly broad interpretation would invalidate not only the Choice Scholarship Program (“CSP”), but numerous other state programs that provide funds to students and their parents who in turn decide to use the funds to attend religious schools in Colorado. The plurality’s interpretation barring indirect funding is so broad that it would invalidate the use of public funds to build roads, bridges, and sidewalks adjacent to such schools, as the schools, in the words of the plurality, “rely on” state-paid infrastructure to operate their institutions.

Yikes! But things weren’t all bad. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the program opened a potential pathway to challenging discriminatory Blaine Amendments across the country before the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS). And sure enough, Dougco appealed the decision, this time under the legal guidance of legal superstar and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement.

Getting SCOTUS to grant a writ of certiorari, or “cert” for short, is tough. The high court receives about 10,000 applications for cert each year, of which it grants 75-80. In other words, SCOTUS takes up less than one percent of the cases it reviews each year. Obviously, this indicates that the court is a wee bit selective about the cases it takes. So, as compelling as Dougco’s case is, the odds of it reaching SCOTUS have always been long. We won’t know for sure whether SCOTUS will hear the case until sometime next month.

In the meantime, however, SCOTUS has decided to talk about Blaine Amendments by taking up a case out of Missouri. Continue Reading »

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January
8th 2016
The 2016 Legislative Session Cometh

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Governor & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

The 2015 legislative session seems like it just ended, but it’s almost time for Little Eddie to once again stalk the shiny hallways of the mythical place known as the Colorado Capitol. Next week marks the beginning of the 120-day sausage-making process that we call the Colorado legislative session. And let me tell you, it’s going to be a fun one. Or maybe that’s the wrong adjective.

The 2016 session kicks off on January 13, which is next Wednesday. If this session is anything like last session, which saw an incredible number of education bills introduced (and an equally incredible number killed), we’re in for a heck of a ride. And this year, that ride may even take us through areas that have little to do with education directly. So, what’s coming down the pike? Here are my best guesses on this year’s legislative edu-themes: Continue Reading »

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December
31st 2015
Little Eddie’s Look Back at 2015

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Education Politics & Just For Fun & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Testing & Union

I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but 2015 is almost over! It’s been such a busy, exciting year that it feels like it started just yesterday. I hope all my faithful readers are getting ready to launch into a 2016 full of prosperity, happiness, and better education for Colorado kids! For now, let’s pause and take a look back at the top five most exciting edu-happenings of 2015. Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2015
NCLB Rewrite Now Looking Like a Distinct Possibility

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

Earlier this week, I gave you an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the compromise No Child Left Behind rewrite that recently emerged from conference committee in D.C. At the end of that post, I mentioned how quickly the bill is moving. Well, as it turns out, it’s moving even more quickly than I had anticipated.

The U.S. House passed the bill with a 359-64 vote yesterday. And according to a New York Times article about the effort, it may soon clear the U.S. Senate and, most notably, the President’s desk:

After months of compromise and negotiation, the bill earned nearly unanimous approval from a conference committee of House and Senate members two weeks ago, and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week. A White House official said Wednesday that President Obama plans to sign it when it reaches his desk.

I’m not surprised to hear that the Senate will be taking up the bill quickly, but this is the first time I’ve seen official(ish) word that the White House intends to sign the compromise. All things considered, I think that’s great news. 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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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
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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July
22nd 2015
NEA’s Push for “Ethnic Studies” Raises Questions

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits & Teachers & Union

I think it’s great to see people stand up for minority kids. My policy friend Ross Izard’s recent profile of Arrupe Jesuit High School was a reminder of just how powerful those efforts can be, particularly in the context of using educational choice to provide opportunities these kids otherwise would not have.

Some of you may also remember Ross’s other article on testing and teacher tenure, in which he cites the Vergara decision knocking down California’s tenure law. In that decision, the judge commented that tenure’s tendency to keep not-so-great teachers in front of kids who most need great ones “shocks the conscience.” Tenure reform is a critical part of correcting this problem and making sure every kid reaps the benefits of having a great teacher.

But maybe minority kids don’t need all those fancy, newfangled opportunities or consistently fantastic teachers. Maybe they just need some more “ethnic studies” classes. So goes the thinking at NEA headquarters. Continue Reading »

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