Archive for the 'Transparency' Category

September
23rd 2016
Pizza Pies and Dollar Signs

Posted under Fiscal Responsibility & School Finance & Transparency

I love pizza. Do you love pizza? Oh, what a silly question! Of course you love pizza. Everyone loves pizza! But here’s the big question: Do you love pizza enough to spend $2.6 million on it? Denver Public Schools does.

I ran across an interesting article this morning from Kyle Clark, my favorite 9News reporter, who has apparently discovered that DPS has negotiated an agreement with Blackjack Pizza for $886,730 in the first year. If the pizza “meets expectations” (whatever that means given that there is no such thing as bad pizza, only shades of deliciousness), the agreement could be extended for another two years. That brings the grand total to $2.6 million. Continue Reading »

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July
29th 2016
The Power of Financial Transparency (and Interns)

Posted under Accountability & School Finance & Taxpayers & Transparency

The last few days have been relatively quiet on the education news front, which means we don’t have a lot of really heavy stuff to discuss. That’s probably a good thing after yesterday’s enormous post on some recent voucher research finding negative academic impacts for participating students.

Still, we should never let a good blog post go to waste. There’s always good policy meat to chew on. And as it turns out, the Independence Institute Education Policy Center has been plenty busy doing exactly that despite the summer doldrums. Today we’ll play a little catch up and cover some fantastic work on the part of one of the Institute’s summer interns, who decided to tackle a critical but often ignored aspect of education policy in Colorado: financial transparency. Continue Reading »

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May
7th 2015
Thompson Stands Up for Change

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

Some famous guy at some point in history once said that the hardest part of any effort is taking the first step. How right he was. Even at the tender age of five, I can tell you that it’s hard to do big, scary, important stuff. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Just ask the Thompson Board of Education!

Reform-minded members of Thompson’s school board took a really big first step last night when they shot down the tentative agreement coming out of the district’s months-long union negotiation process. You probably remember our discussion of that agreement a couple of weeks ago. If not, this piece by my friend Ross Izard should catch you up. The short version is this: The “new” contract stunk.

Faced with the prospect of having to sign the aforementioned stinky contract, Thompson’s reformers took a brave stand and refused to act as a rubber stamp for the union or district bureaucrats. The board members did a great job of articulating their points, and they made a whole lot of good sense to me. Continue Reading »

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May
4th 2015
Broad Brush “Limited Impact” Claim Vindicates Progress of Prop 104

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & School Board & Teachers & Transparency & Union & Urban Schools

Last week I posted a case study from the Thompson School District, an example of how NOT to negotiate an employee agreement. Just because the popularly enacted Prop 104 has opened the door on these negotiations doesn’t guarantee that they will be conducted effectively, at least not on the first try.

That isn’t to say open negotiations have little or no impact. Unless you’re writing a Friday headline for Chalkbeat Colorado Rise and Shine:

Continue Reading »

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April
1st 2015
Unity is Strength: Independence Institute Staff Take the Plunge and Unionize

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Transparency & Union

You know, maybe I’ve been too hard on teachers unions. Just this year, I’ve celebrated their declining membership rates, poked fun at their colossal loss of money in the 2014 election cycle, and had a little too much fun reliving an extraordinarily entertaining “battleflop” by Jeffco’s local teachers union.

Who can blame me? My big boy policy friends at the Independence Institute are always talking about union political spending, making sure union negotiations are required to be public, and helping teachers learn more about how they can opt out of paying union dues. Ben DeGrow did a scathing analysis of posts on the Jefferson County Education Association’s Facebook page back in January, and just this month Ross Izard published an article decrying union efforts to undermine tenure reform and accountability systems in education. I’m just a little guy, and I’ve got to follow the grownups’ lead.

But now it seems like the grownups may be changing their minds. Faced with impossible expectations and the cruel management of Jon Caldara, staff members are banding together for support. Continue Reading »

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January
19th 2015
Colorado Looks Terrible at K-12 Spending (If You Fudge the Numbers)

Posted under Journalism & Research & School Finance & Transparency & Union

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous expression: “If it bleeds, it leads.” The K-12 education policy version of that axiom recently played out in a recent Colorado Public Radio (CPR) story under the heading of “Colorado per-pupil spending lags US average even more, report says.”

The report referenced comes from the Colorado School Finance Report (COSFP). Wait, where have I heard that before? Yes, the group whose spooky story doesn’t look so spooky after all when all the facts are laid out.

CPR (which in this case has nothing to do with an emergency life-saving technique) highlights a somewhat selective finding made by COSFP: Continue Reading »

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January
13th 2015
Little Eddie’s Transparency Soap Box

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & School Board & Transparency

I love flashlights. I can remember many nights spent reading under my Batman sheets with a flashlight well past the time I should have been asleep. And just last week, I used a flashlight to hunt down the final Lego block I needed to finish my replica Millennium Falcon. It had fallen under the bed. As an added bonus, I also found three socks, two pennies, and a Superman action figure while I was down there.

As useful as real, physical flashlights are, though, I think metaphorical flashlights are even more powerful—especially when they’re used to shed light on political processes. That’s I celebrated when my Independence Institute friends successfully opened the door on district-union negotiations with Proposition 104 this past November. The proposition passed with a 70% yes vote, which to me says that Coloradans really, really value transparency in government. Who can blame them?

But district-union negotiations are only one part of the puzzle. School boards conduct a lot of business that falls well outside direct interactions with local unions. And although Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires school boards to provide “full and timely” notice of public meetings, a recent story from the Colorado Springs Gazette highlights the fact that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the public is given all the information they need to be fully involved: Continue Reading »

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