The findings from a new study of the district’s pioneering child-parent center program are striking, with daily attendance up and chronic absenteeism among preschoolers down as much as 40 percent in some schools.
Along with the positive findings, however, a question looms: Six of the centers that were located in schools that shut down this fall moved to welcoming schools, but it’s not clear how many of the preschoolers who were part of the study last year at those centers came back this fall.
Researchers, teachers and principals have wrapped up the first year of the federally funded study, which included 1,655 children (out of the 2,300 who received services through the center’s program).
Principal investigator Arthur Reynolds says the improved attendance figures are likely due to a combination of more full-day preschool classrooms coupled with parent engagement strategies that are part of the child-parent center model. The model, considered a prime example of high-quality early learning, once flourished in Chicago but dwindled for lack of resources. Now, with federal funding, the program is making a comeback in CPS and expanding to other school districts, including Evanston; Normal, Ill.; Milwaukee; and Minnesota.
The findings on absenteeism are important because research has found that chronic absence in preschool sets the stage for poor attendance in later years as well as lower academic achievement.
The new study’s results showed that:
--- Full-day classes had average attendance of 90 percent last year, versus 84 percent for half-day preschools. And while 67 percent of students in half-day programs were chronically absent, the figure fell to 41 percent for full-day programs.
--- Schools with a full-time community resource coordinator had lower percentages of chronically absent children: 55 percent versus 64 percent for schools with only a part-time coordinator.
--- Stronger parent engagement also helped to decrease chronic absenteeism. Schools with a full-day preschool, high parent engagement and a full-time outreach worker posted chronic absence rates of 27 percent, compared to 77 percent for schools that lacked these factors.
Before the study began, none of the schools had full-day preschools. But last year, 11 of the child-parent center sites began offering full-day classes, with a total of 23 classrooms. This year, that’s increased even more, to 30 classrooms in 13 sites. (Three sites---Velma Thomas, Peck and Edwards--are so overcrowded that they don’t have space to offer a full-day preschool program.)
The study faced a challenge because of school closings and high mobility. Though researchers hoped that 80 percent of the preschool students would stay at their school for kindergarten, the numbers fell somewhat short of that goal: Just 62 percent of preschoolers at schools that were slated to close (or at one school, to undergo a turnaround) entered kindergarten at their designated welcoming schools, and only 72 percent did so at other schools.
“We worked with the new principals to make sure there was a smooth transition,” Reynolds says. “We made a big effort to make sure those kids all stayed, because if they moved and they didn’t move to a [child-parent center] school, they wouldn’t get any of those other services. The leadership teams all made a strong effort to reach out to families.”
Researchers took another step to ensure stability, encouraging principals at receiving schools and at Dewey, the turnaround, to keep teachers who had been trained in the child-parent center model.
Reynolds notes that at Dewey, several staff members stayed on. The parent resource teacher remained, and one of the preschool teachers became the head teacher.
Next, researchers and school staff will home in on providing support to preschool students as they move up through kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. The emphasis will be on building a community of preschool through 3rd grade teachers who use a similar curriculum and can strike a balance between child-directed, play-focused instruction and instruction directed by the teacher.
Other key aspects of the program include a variety of parent engagement activities, class sizes of no more than 17 in preschool and 25 in kindergarten through 3rd grade, plus the availability of a teacher’s aide who is in the classroom at least half-time.
A leadership team comprised of the head teacher, the parent resource teacher, and a school-community liaison coordinates each child-parent center program.
CPS is providing funding to continue the program for this year’s preschool students, but it’s not clear whether there will be money for the K-3 years.
“We want to work out a sustainability plan,” Reynolds says.
This story has been updated to correct the number Dewey Child-Parent Center staff who were re-hired during the school's turnaround.
Each weekday morning, we search websites of various media, comb through RSS feeds and peruse Google alerts to bring you a roundup of the day’s top education headlines, in Colorado and across the country, by 8 a.m. If you’d like to suggest a story we’ve missed or a source we should add to the list, please email us at email@example.com.
A privately run high school for the arts could get a new home in a Humboldt Park building formerly used by one of the 49 elementary schools the district voted to close earlier this year, district officials said Monday, although CPS had assured parents that privately run charter schools would not get any of the buildings of neighborhood schools that were closed. The potential move of ChiArts to Lafayette was criticized by those who see it as a breach of that promise. (Tribune/WBEZ)
ChiArts is a contract school—which is only slightly different than a charter. ChiArts admits students based on auditions, rather than by lottery. It is still privately run and publicly funded.
IN THE STATE
TRANSFORMATION RECOMMENDATIONS: Elgin Area School District U-46's Transformation Task Force is gearing up to make recommendations to the school board at its December board meeting about allowing increased time during a school day for student intervention and enrichment by teachers, and providing opportunities for more teacher collaboration. (Daily Herald)
IN THE NATION
FINANCING PUBLIC EDUCATION: On Tuesday, Colorado will ask voters to approve a $1 billion tax increase in exchange for more school funding and an educator’s wish-list of measures. Outside money is pouring into the state. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support gun control here, has given $1 million to the school campaign, as have Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation is one of the largest philanthropic organizations involved in public education. Teachers’ unions have contributed at least $4 million, and other pro-labor groups have given thousands. (The New York Times)
EARLY INEQUITIES: An analysis of 13,000 young children tracked from kindergarten entry through middle school found that only about a third of them were on track with cognitive skills by 3rd grade, underlining the need for a comprehensive early-childhood education, particularly for low-income children, according to a new report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. The findings are based on the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten, a federally-funded data collection effort that tracked children who were in kindergarten in 1998-99 school year to spring 2007, when most would have been in 8th grade. (Education Week)
DISADVANTAGED GENERATION: America’s youngest children—12 million infants and toddlers are a generation characterized by marked inequities, with disturbing proportions facing severe disadvantage that imposes both immediate and lasting threats to well-being, says a report commissioned by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Updated Nov. 5 - Almost exactly a third of the 3.09 million ballots sent to Colorado voters this election had been returned as of Election Day morning.
The number of ballots returned indicates that more than 400,000 additional ballots will have to hit county clerks’ offices before 7 p.m. if turnout is to reach the 50 percent seen in 2011.
Denver, heavily Democratic and the county with the largest number of active voters, had reached a 26 percent return rate. Douglas, a key Republican-leaning county, was at 44 percent of ballots return, and other large GOP counties like El Paso, Weld and Mesa was above 30 percent. The only large Democratic-leaning counties with more than 30 percent of ballots returned were Boulder and Pueblo.
A low turnout, particularly in Democratic counties, could be worrisome for Amendment 66 backers, given the widely cited view that the campaign needs to draw voters who don’t normally vote in off-year elections in order to pass the $950 million state income tax increase.
Just over a quarter of ballots had been cast as of Monday morning.
Veteran campaign consultant Katy Atkinson said Monday the turnout “sounds about average” for an off-year election and that while A66 backers probably are “hoping for a high turnout, it’s not necessarily bad news for them either.”
Atkinson said, “All or most Democrats are probably yes votes” but that it’s “just about impossible to predict how Republicans will be voting,” adding that A66 likely will have some support from Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
“The big question is how big a chunk” that will be, Atkinson said. “My sense is that this is going to be close.”
Another experienced consultant, Lynea Hansen, thinks the Republican-Democratic gap will narrow by 7 p.m. Tuesday. “We have a tradition of Democrats voting on Election Day,” she said, even in an all-mail election.
She noted there was significant Democratic turnout on Election Day in 2011, which also was largely all-mail. “I definitely think Amendment 66 is going to come down to the wire,” and the result will depend on whether the pro-66 campaign gets its supporters to vote.
Consultant Eric Sondemann said the number of ballots returned “strikes me as a very modest turnout.” He agreed that more Democrats than Republicans vote on Election Day but that “There’s going to have to be a hell of a surge tomorrow” for Democrats to close the gap.
Backers of A66 made a last in-person push on Saturday as about 740 paid and volunteer canvassers went door-to-door in 11 communities around the state.
High-profile Democratic politicians turned at A66 rallies. “Every minute counts, every step counts and every door knocked counties,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told canvassers after they returned from working in Aurora.
Mayor Michael Hancock rallied volunteers in Denver, and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia spoke to Fort Collins canvassers.
A panel of experts did a “pre-mortem” on A66 during a discussion sponsored by the Buechner Institute of Governance at the University of Colorado Denver.
“I do think it will be close,” said Norma Anderson, a former Republican legislative leader from Jefferson County. Anderson, who opposes A66, noted, “The one thing about the people in Colorado, they don’t like a raise in taxes.”
Andrew Freedman, A66 campaign manager, predicted the measure will pass and cautioned, “Don’t read too much” into early ballot returns. (About 23 percent of ballots had been returned as of Friday morning.)Do your homework
“There’s a lot of turnout game to be played,” said Hansen, who also was on the panel. “Democrats don’t turn their ballots in until later in the game.”
Hansen also noted that turnout may be affected by other political controversies that have been in the news, including gun control, marijuana taxes and civil unions. “All of this frames the debate. Such distractions won’t necessarily change voters’ minds about A66, but “It’s changing who’s voting” and will affect turnout.
Panel members also were coaxed into “what if” speculation by moderator Paul Teske.
“If it fails you’re not going to pass another tax increase unless it’s a minor one,” predicted Anderson.
“If it doesn’t pass we have to make another stab at finding the right solution,” said Hansen, who personally supports A66.
Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said, “We can’t use 66 [losing] as an excuse to not do the things we know that we fundamentally need to be doing” in education reform. (The chamber has supported A66’s accompanying legislation, Senate Bill 13-213, but remained neutral on the amendment.)
Project VOYCE Co-training director Shelby Gonzales-Parker argues that Amendment 66′s increased investment in education will pay off down the road.
In just over 24 hours, we will know if Coloradans were able to make the bold move of implementing the newest education reform initiative, “Amendment 66,” which would change the entire formula for how Colorado finances education. There will be an increase in state taxes, creating almost one billion dollars that would go directly into education the first year. Reporters, legislators, business leaders, school-board members, parents, and educators have all taken sides on Amendment 66 and have provided their input on why they do or do not support it. By November 5th, their votes will be counted. However, we haven’t heard much from students and how they feel about this piece of legislation, which will impact them more directly than anyone else involved. That is where I come in.
My name is Shelby Gonzales-Parker. As the first member of my family to attend college, I am currently a junior at Metropolitan State University of Denver, majoring in English, Secondary Education. My goal is to become a teacher in the Denver Public Schools. In 2010, I graduated from Denver Justice High School as the first valedictorian the school ever had. I became an advocate for education reform as a sophomore in high school when I was hired with Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Changing Education) in 2008. Alternative charter schools and Project VOYCE are the two places that not only saw leadership potential in me, but also helped cultivate the leader would become.
In May of 2004, one of my older brothers, whom I looked up to all my life, Levi, was killed in a car accident when he was only 17 years old. My life and the view I had on life changed forever. After only a year of Levi passing, I was expelled from my middle school, put on probation for multiple offenses, and was told I was an “at-risk” student. Although I always excelled academically, my behavior and lack of resources labeled me as a student that was destined to fail. After being sent to an alternative school, two educators told me I could be the change I wished to see, if I took my education seriously and made a difference in my community. I was never suspended again. Shortly thereafter, I decided to become a teacher and was hired by Project VOYCE. I also became a single mother, at the age of 17, to a beautiful baby boy who I named Levi after my brother. In 2010, Governor Ritter appointed me as the first and only student on the Colorado State Council for Educator Effectiveness, leading the work and recommendations around SB-191. For the two years I served, I represented all 840,000 Colorado students.
So what does this have to do with Amendment 66? Well, I’d like to say, EVERYTHING.
If passed, Amendment 66 would increase taxes from 4.63 percent to 5 percent and 5.9 percent after the first year for anyone earning $75,000 or more a year. Although Colorado would still be one of the last states in the country for the amount we pay in state taxes (eighth lowest), people are still skeptical about putting additional money into education. Although education has one of the highest rates of return on investment, the fear remains, about putting additional money into something and not being guaranteed any change.
However, in a state with barely half of all students graduating on time, and a growing number of students entering juvenile systems every day, this investment is a risk we need to take. The success of our children and our future economy is well worth the additional amount each individual will have to pay annually.
With this amendment comes a new financing formula that will finally take steps to level the playing field for all children in Colorado. Cost of living will no longer be accounted for, and the amount of low income students and English Language Learners will be the main factor in determining how much money each district NEEDS. Therefore, districts with the highest amount of poverty and English language learners will benefit the most. The money will be directed specifically to education initiatives such as early childhood education, full-day kindergarten, charter schools, smaller class sizes, etc. Districts and principals will have more autonomy over the additional money they receive and a public website will be created to be transparent about how each school is allocating their dollars.
As a former Denver Public Schools student who experienced the struggle of attending multiple underserved schools, I believe this is something we desperately need to improve the quality of our education system.
The intention is not to take opportunity away from people, but instead to give it to those who have very little. If it were not for the alternative education I was able to receive or the outside resources my school introduced me to, I would not be where I am today. I know more people dead, in jail or in prison than I know who graduated or made it to college and I don’t want that future for my son.
It isn’t fair that I made it while so many others didn’t. Currently in Colorado there are more than 1,600 youth locked up in juvenile facilities which costs on average $161 each day, per youth. That equals about $260,000 per day we are spending to lock up our youth. Now let’s look at adults. According to a recent study done by the VERA Institute of Justice, in Colorado it costs an average of $30,000 per year to incarcerate one inmate. Colorado taxpayers are paying $606.2 million a year to support prisons and to keep people incarcerated. And yet, when it comes to education, we are among the last states for the amount we spend per student (about $6,600 compared to the national average of $10,700 per student.)
Is this what we want to be known for in Colorado? Is it the American thing to put more money into prisons than schools and to stand silent while children from low income families begin their lives and education way behind the starting line? Speaking for the students and my son, I say no. Under-funding education hurts all students and every taxpayer for decades to come. Providing children with a quality education and the resources they need, will prevent them from entering the juvenile system, and would therefore mean less money that would need to go into prisons.
If we want to teach our children to be caring, responsible, critical thinkers, successful at whatever they do, than we need to set the example and give them that opportunity. If we want schools and educators to be effective, they need the resources to make it happen. According to a recent report by A+ Denver, in Denver Public Schools, 50 percent of white students scored a 23 or higher on their ACT while only 6 percent of Latinos and 7 percent of African Americans scored a 23 or above (in 2012.) Clearly, there is an achievement gap that needs to be closed and without giving more resources to those truly in need, we will never see that happen. With that said I am voting YES on Amendment 66 and encourage you to do the same.About the author
Shelby Gonzales-Parker’s life was headed in a dangerous direction in middle school. Fortunately, remarkable teachers connected with her and changed her life around. Seeking a school that fit her culture and her voracious desire to learn, she attended four different schools before graduating from one of Denver’s newest charter schools as the first valedictorian. She is a single mom and attends Metro State University where her career goal is to become a teacher. Shelby is now the Co-Training Director at Project VOYCE and Site Coordinator at Denver Center for 21st Century Learning (DC21).
Denver Public Schools is launching a new system that would begin monitoring students’ preparation for college and career as early as kindergarten.
The new plan, outlined in an internal document acquired by EdNews Colorado, establishes so-called “gateways” for students, benchmarks at certain grade levels that can help predict whether a student will be college-ready.
The gateways will not be used to hold schools or teachers accountable for their performance, said Susana Cordova, DPS’s chief academic officer and head of the team leading the design. Instead, the question is “what are some key places in a student’s career where we need to make sure we support?”
Parents and teachers would be able to track a student’s progress, either through the parent portal or some other method. The district plans to also build tools for parents to help support their student’s progress on the benchmarks.
The gateways program is still in its first stages. A district spokesperson said that the gateways won’t go into effect until after the board revises the Denver Plan, the district’s blueprint for raising student achievement. The timeline for that will be set by the new school board after the election.Tracking students for success
The gateways system is based on one used in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, called Seven Keys to College Readiness.
“Montgomery County has had a strong track record of closing the achievement gap,” said Cordova. “They have used these seven keys to success for years.”
The district decided on seven gateways from kindergarten to high school graduation, based largely on students’ performances on standardized tests (see below for a description of the seven gateways). These include Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) math and reading tests, the American College Testing (ACT) test for high school seniors, and the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) for kindergarteners.
Cordova also said it will give parents, teachers and principals a concrete understanding of how a student is progressing.
In addition to making it to the next gateway, the goals for students are tied to metrics of future success. According to the district, college and career readiness starts far earlier than high school.
For example, students who meet the third grade benchmark are two and a half times more likely to enroll in college without remediation. Passing the eighth grade benchmark leads to an eight-fold gain. A description of each grade’s metric and its effect on a student’s future is available below .
Cordova’s team is also contemplating including social and emotional benchmarks as well.
“Academic preparation is one piece of it,” said Cordova. “But they also need to learn the social and emotional skills for success, like grit, resilience.”
She said they want to stay away from grading students on their character, as some schools do. Instead, they might use something like extracurricular participation.Current state of affairs
If one of the goals of the program is better college readiness for Denver students, the district’s own data shows it has a long way to go. Kindergarten is the only area where more than 50 percent of students pass the gateway.
Denver Public Schools is growing faster than any urban district in the U.S., largely by enticing back students who were choosing to attend school elsewhere. The school district’s administration has touted growth measures exceeding the state’s and growth performance unrivaled by any of the large Colorado school districts.
But all that growth may not be moving fast enough to make up the district’s gaps in achievement. The last state ranking for the district showed no area where the district met expectations of achievement.
By introducing gateway measurements, the district will be telling a more mixed message. In kindergarten, students are doing relatively well, with 67 percent meeting or exceeding the benchmark. Students in third grade show considerable progress on the benchmark, with 50 percent meeting the benchmark compared with 39 percent five years ago.
After third grade, that progress stalls. By the time Denver students reach the final benchmark, only 13 percent will pass, a state little different than five years ago.
At the moment, few of the district’s middle and high school students meet the academic goals laid out by the gateways program.
Denver’s middle schools, which have been at the center of the controversy over district reforms, tout high growth on state measures. The release of these benchmarks shows, that despite those gains, performance remains low. Only 33 percent of middle school students score proficient or better in math and reading on the TCAP, the benchmark for eighth grade.
Despite increases in graduation, the post-secondary performance of Denver students has not dramatically improved. College enrollment has only increased by 3 percent, despite the district’s growth in student numbers. Enrollment is currently at 47 percent or 1,705 students. That’s down from a peak of 1,719 students in 2010, when the district’s college enrollment was 50 percent.
College remediation rates have also increased in the past five years, from 57.1 percent to 59.7 percent.Wide achievement gap
The achievement gap remains a gaping canyon on the district’s gateways, with an average 30 point difference between students who live in poverty and those who don’t. The gap is narrower for English language learners, with an average 14.5 point difference.
Fifth grade has the widest gap for impoverished students. Only 34 percent of students living in poverty passed the benchmark, compared with 73 of students above the poverty level. The gap lingers in eighth grade, with a third as many impoverished students passing the benchmark compared with their more affluent peers. The gap narrows in high school, to 21 percent.
English language learners follow a similar pattern, with narrowest performance differences in kindergarten and at graduation. English language natives outperform their English learner peers by the widest margin in third grade, with a margin of 21 points. Eleventh grade comes a close second, with 19 points.Any improvement?
It’s not all bad news for the district. Targeted efforts in kindergarten through third grades appear to have had some success. The number of kindergarteners meeting the benchmark has increased by 28 percent. In third grade, the number increased by 11 percent.
Those gains, however, dissipate in the older grades. The district’s growing middle school population has not outperformed its predecessors. Achievement in eighth grade has stagnated at 33 percent for the past five years. The district’s middle school enrollment grew 16.5 percent over that same time, a higher rate than the district at large.
As for graduation, the district has continued to increase the number of students graduating from high school. The district’s four year graduation rate and five year completion rate has increased from 38.7 to 58.8 percent.
Current students may not see any changes for a while. The project won’t launch for at least another year, Cordova said. But when it does, she hopes, it will give parents, teachers and administrators a more accurate picture of what a student’s progress looks like.The Gateways
Goal: Reach Text Level 4* on the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
Why? Only 51 percent of students who missed this gateway met the next one
Goal: Score proficient or above on TCAP math & reading and attend classes regularly
Why? Two and a half times more likely to enroll in college without remediation
Goal: Score proficient or above on TCAP math & reading and attend classes regularly
Why? Four and a half times more likely to enroll in college without remediation
Goal: Score proficient or above on TCAP math & reading
Why? Gain of 7 ACT points & eight times more likely to enroll in college without remediation
Goal: Score proficient or above on TCAP math & reading
Why? Gain of 9 ACT points
Goal: Score 22 in math & 21 in reading on the ACT
Why? Seven times more likely to enroll in college without remediation
Goal: Enroll and achieve success in AP, IB or Concurrent Enrollment courses
Why? Students who passed an AP test (3 or higher) were three times more likely to immediately enroll in college without remediation
A gambling proposal up for public approval Tuesday is either a “godsend” for New York City schools, or a “bill of goods” filled with false promises. It just depends on whom you’re talking to.
The proposed amendment to the state constitution would allow the construction of up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos in New York State beyond those that already operate on American Indian reservations. Much of the tax revenue from the casinos would be funneled into city schools, which state budget officials have estimated could see as much as $94 million in annual revenue.
“This will be a godsend and gift for our children in our educational system,” Keith Wright, a state assemblyman and co-chair of the state’s Democratic party, said last week.
But others are lobbying against the proposal, cautioning that the promised dividends to schools might well be exaggerated.
The $94 million figure came from the State Budget Office, which based its estimate on the construction of four new casino resorts. It would represent a little more than 1 percent of the $8.5 billion in school aid that city schools are receiving from the state this year.
The ballot measure has pitted traditional allies against one another and lined up unlikely coalitions. Labor unions and business groups have joined Wright in support, saying the casinos, whose construction would be limited to upstate regions at first, can boost economic and job growth in parts of the state in decline. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and both New York City mayoral candidates are on board with the measure.
The United Federation of Teachers jumped on board too, giving $250,000 to a pro-casino group to raise awareness for the issue ahead of the vote.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew held a press conference at union headquarters last week, where he said the extra funding would be helpful at a time when it’s needed the most. Annual school aid increases, he said, have not kept pace with new requirements from the state to adopt Common Core standards and more complicated teacher evaluations.
“The schools need the revenue,” Mulgrew said. “The schools absolutely need the revenue.”
But some organized opposition exists. Not far away from the UFT event last Thursday, a group was at City Hall making their case for why the amendment should be voted down. They included anti-gambling conservative groups and liberal Democrats who oppose gambling on moral grounds; fear a rise in the influence of casino lobbying; and worry that loopholes that could allow lawmakers to slip out of some of the early promises.
“There will be no requirement that the money be spent on the education,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger, of Manhattan. “That could be changed tomorrow.”
Krueger said that she would have been more likely to support the amendment if it mandated that the gambling tax revenues went exclusively to education, as the rules associated with the New York State lottery mandate. She said she was also concerned that lawmakers would find ways to use the new gambling tax revenue to replace other state educating funding streams, rather than add to them, which is what critics say has happened with the lottery in recent years.
“It is very easy to do a bait and switch the way this whole thing has been set up,” Krueger said.
But Mulgrew said that he was confident that the new revenue would prevent any future reductions in school aid. ”They can’t say we’re going to cut education with this additional revenue,” he said.
Krueger, who is a frequent ally of Mulgrew, said she wants more state money earmarked for education. She just doesn’t think the amendment on Tuesday’s ballot is the best way to make that happen.
“I just think that some people don’t understand that they’re being sold a bill of goods,” she said.
In New York City, polls show that voters generally support the amendment, but they say they wouldn’t want a casino developed in any of the five boroughs.
If you’re like most New York City voters, you’ve already decided who you’re voting for in tomorrow’s mayoral election. (The latest poll puts support for frontrunner Bill de Blasio at 65 percent, and only 8 percent say they might change their minds before Election Day.) But if education is a top priority and you’re still on the fence, here’s the final rundown of what de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota say they would do as mayor and head of the nation’s largest school system.
Both don’t want their power diluted significantly: De Blasio and Lhota have said that the mayor should appoint the majority of the members of the Panel for Educational Policy. But they also agree on that PEP members should serve fixed terms and not at the will of the mayor, which would give the body somewhat more autonomy from City Hall.
The big divergence: Lhota has offered full-throated support of the city’s charter school sector, pledging to double the number of charter schools in the city and continue to support co-locating them in public space. De Blasio has said that well-funded charter school networks should pay rent and said “the city doesn’t need new charters.” He also would pause the system of co-locations—positions that have worried charter network operators and some parents.
The divide was on full display at the October rally charter school supporters held before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, where Lhota greeted students and parents. De Blasio did not attend, though he has taken steps to appear moderate on the issue lately. “There are some very good charter schools, and I’m glad we have them,” he said in August.
Similar goals, very different plans: De Blasio has made raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for universal, full-day pre-kindergarten a centerpiece of his mayoral campaign. Lhota has painted himself as a “real” fiscal conservative, and is generally opposed to tax increases. “That’s not going to do one bloody thing to solve income inequity,” Lhota has said of de Blasio’s preschool plan, though he also supports expanding the availability of pre-K.
It’s a fundamental disagreement: Lhota has said that keeping low-performing schools open is “immoral” and that he would continue the Bloomberg-era policy of closing schools. De Blasio has called for a moratorium on school closures.
Another total divide: De Blasio has said he would stop issuing letter grades for individual schools, a hallmark of Bloomberg-era accountability. Lhota has emphasized his support for continuing to measure schools in multiple ways and would keep the letter grade system in place.
Tentative ideas for a complicated topic: De Blasio has indicated that he supports giving more power to districts and would consider rethinking the network structure that currently provides support to schools. “Districts matter. … We need to find a way to get parents to be able to talk to someone at the district level; teachers, parents relating to leadership at the district level again,” he said. Lhota has offered few specifics about how, or whether, he would make changes to the structure of support organizations.
Another divergence: Lhota has made paying teachers based on performance a central plank in his education platform, arguing that “The one piece that’s missing is working with the union for merit pay and changing their approach.” De Blasio doesn’t support tying pay to performance, something that the city teachers union has consistently opposed.
A pet issue: De Blasio has often spoken about his desire to amend the admissions process for the city’s nine specialized high schools, proposing a process that would use criteria beyond the Specialized High School Admissions Test to improve diversity in those schools. (De Blasio’s son Dante attends Brooklyn Tech, a specialized high school.) Lhota hasn’t spoken out on the issue, which would affect a small percentage of the city’s high school students.
Here, some unity: both de Blasio and Lhota say they want to end the ban on cell phones in schools. That’s a policy that has upset parents and City Council members have called “inconsistent and posssibly discriminatory.” It made de Blasio’s wife Chirlaine upset enough to approach Mayor Bloomberg about.
Each weekday morning, we search websites of various media, comb through RSS feeds and peruse Google alerts to bring you a roundup of the day’s top education headlines, in Colorado and across the country, by 8 a.m. If you’d like to suggest a story we’ve missed or a source we should add to the list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Illinois School Report Card data released Thursday, 35 Chicago-area school districts have seen a change in the ethnic or racial makeup of their largest group of students during the last 10 years.
Whites lost their No. 1 status to Latinos in 19 suburban districts spread across the six-county area of Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane and McHenry. Blacks were displaced by Latinos as the leading group in nine other districts, including the city of Chicago. This year’s school report card shows that minorities make up nearly half the students in Illinois public schools. And, of those minorities, Hispanic students have eclipsed blacks over the last 10 years as the largest minority, 24 percent.
GROWING ECONOMIC DIVIDE: The drop in Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT) scores follows an increasing divide across schools in higher and lower income areas. A study released earlier this month by the Southern Education Center found that 70 percent of students in Illinois who go to school in urban areas live in poverty, and half of all public school students in 17 states come from low-income families.
NEW ARTS HIGH SCHOOL: A shuttered neighborhood school building will likely be turned into an arts high school, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Though Chicago Public Schools officials and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) say the Lafayette Elementary School is only one of several buildings under consideration for the new location of the Chicago High School for the Arts — affectionately known as ChiArts — other City Hall sources described it as a done deal.
KINDERGARTENERS AND OBESITY: New figures released last week by the Chicago Department of Public Health suggest that childhood obesity among CPS kindergarteners has dropped by five percentage points, from 24 percent in 2003 to 19.1 percent in 2012. The improvement among CPS kindergarteners follows modest progress in 21 states across the country among very young children, and improvements in other big cities including New York and Los Angeles. But Chicago still posts higher childhood obesity numbers than those big cities for reasons researchers are not quite able to explain. (WBEZ)
IN THE NATION
WIRED CLASSROOMS, MANAGEMENT CONCERNS: In a growing number of K-12 schools, the use of 1-to-1 computing devices—including iPads, laptops, and Chromebooks—is becoming a central part of instruction. For teachers making the digital leap, one of the greatest hurdles can be figuring out how to manage the tech-infused classroom. How do you keep kids, who suddenly have the Internet at their fingertips, on task? How do you ensure the devices are safe and well-maintained? And how do you compete with your most tech-savvy students? (Education Week)
CHARTERS IMPACT DISTRICT BUDGET: The Philadelphia School District is trying to find 4,000 students that it expected to enroll in September who didn't show up. Many of those may have switched to charter schools. The District has sought for years to impose enrollment caps on charter schools to contain the rapid growth of its payouts to charters, but dozens of other charters have simply refused to sign their charter renewals, in many cases protesting the imposition of caps. (The Notebook)
The four candidates for Denver school board who broadly support the district administration’s accountability-based school reform efforts have been out-fundraising their opponents at a rate of three to one — but they’re also getting a boost from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Denver businessman and billionaire Philip Anschutz in the form of donations to the expenditure committee Great Schools Denver.
Nine donors gave the group, which registered as an independent expenditure committee in June, a total of $205,000, according to filings submitted to the Secretary of State’s office on Friday. Bloomberg donated $75,000 and Anschutz gave $9,000.
The largest single donor to Great Schools Denver was the advocacy committee of the group Education Reform Now, which is affiliated with Democrats for Education reform and which also has a local committee. The organization contributed $90,000 of Great School Denver’s reported contributions.
Oakwood Homes, which is led by Pat Hamill, and Kent Thiry, chief executive officer of DaVita, each contributed $15,000. And John Fox of MarkWest Energy Partners donated $1,000.
Anschutz, Thiry and Hamill have already donated to individual candidates in the campaign. Friday’s campaign disclosures revealed that Hamill donated a combined $18,000 to southwest Denver candidate Rosemary Rodriguez, central Denver candidate Michael Johnson and northeast Denver candidate Landri Taylor. Anschutz contributed $16,000 in the first campaign finance reporting cycle to those three candidates, plus at-large candidate Barbara O’Brien. Thiry gave the candidates $8,000, while his wife Denise O’Leary contributed $33,000.
And Bloomberg made Colorado headlines earlier in the week when his philanthropy gave more than $1 million to the campaign to pass the education tax measure Amendment 66.
The largest single recipient of the group’s expenditures, which total $161,709 so far, was the political consulting group OnSight Public Affairs. OnSight is also working with the campaign to pass Amendment 66.
A union-backed committee is spending big money on the Douglas County school board race, despite protests from candidates that they have not received union support.
The Committee for Better Schools Now, which supports the candidates opposing the policies of the current board, has received $150,000 in contributions from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its local affiliate. The AFT represents Douglas County teachers, whose collective bargaining agreement with the district lapsed in 2012 after talks failed.
The committee describes itself as being for candidates “who are focused on what’s best for children, rather than adult style politics for Douglas County School Board of Education.” The slate of candidates who oppose the current direction of the district use similar language, calling themselves “4 for kids candidates.” They include Bill Hodges, a former school district administrator, Barbra Chase, Julie Keim and Ronda Scholting. None of them received direct union support for their campaigns.
Their opposition includes Judi Reynolds, CU regent Jim Geddes and incumbent board members Doug Benevento and Meghann Silverthorn.
According to reports filed Friday, the committee received $110,000 from the national branch of the AFT in Washington, D.C. An additional $40,000 came from the Colorado branch of the AFT. The committee also received $70,000 from the Committee for Great Douglas County Schools, which is not registered with the Secretary of State. However, the Committee for Great Douglas County Schools, which is based in Castle Rock, received $28,713 from the AFT earlier this year, according to IRS filings. A final $10,000 came in from Colorado Wins, a union representing state employees.
The Committee for Better Schools Now has raised more than all the school board candidates combined, who raised a total of $221,563. The committee has spent $197,310 since Sept. 26, including $74,449 on television advertising.
The Douglas County Republic Central Committee also contributed to the race, spending $45,786 in the latest reporting period. That includes $15,666 spent on advertising.
Despite union participation at the committee-level, candidates supporting the current board out-raised critics at the candidate level. Supporters of the board raised an average of $41,282, whereas opponents raised an average $14,108. They also outspent them at a narrower margin, $28,639 to $13,132. The most successful opposition candidate was Ronda Scholting, who raised $19,726 in the current period and spent $19,073.
All four candidates who are supportive of current board actions received $1,000 donations from former Florida governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush. Bush wrote an editorial Friday in support of the current board.
See below for a breakdown by race of how much candidates have raised and spent since Oct. 15.District B
Denver Public Schools board candidates who support the current district administration’s slate of policies continue to far outpace their opponents in fundraising, according to the second round of campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office on Friday.
Overall, candidates for DPS board seats raised nearly $149,000 in the past two and a half weeks, bringing total campaign donations in the race to $744,116.
Nine candidates are vying for four seats on the seven-member board. The races have been closely watched because while the current board has been supportive of the district and Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s accountability-based reform policies, that majority is narrow and could flip if more critics of the administration are elected. A sense of the high stakes in the races has motivated a spate of high-level donations, primarily to the four candidates who have pledged to continue the district’s current trajectory.
Friday’s filings show that pattern continuing. The bulk of the money raised in the reporting period — $113,580 — was given to those four: former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien running at-large, former Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez in District 2, lawyer Mike Johnson in east Denver’s District 3 and Urban League executive Landri Taylor in northeast Denver’s District 4.
The remaining $35,389 raised went to candidates who are critical of the current administration’s focus on school choice, teacher accountability and data-driven decision-making and who have promised to push the district’s emphasis more to neighborhood schools. Those candidates are software company manager Michael Kiley in the at-large race, community organizer Rosario C. de Baca in District 2, activist and school volunteer Meg Schomp in District 3 and water engineer Roger Kilgore in District 4.
A third candidate in the at-large race, Joan Poston, does not fall into either camp. She has also not established a campaign committee and is not raising any money from outside donors.
Here’s a breakdown of how much money each candidate has raised since October 15:At-large
The largest single donations came from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which gave $12,000 to Schomp, $7,000 to Kilgore and $4,000 to C. de Baca, as well as non-monetary contributions for staff support and event expenses to all four.
But the candidates who support the administration benefited from large donations from a variety of advocacy organizations and wealthy donors from Colorado and out-of-state. Democrats for Education Reform’s Colorado political committee gave O’Brien, Rodriguez and Taylor $2,000 each, while Stand for Children Colorado gave O’Brien, Johnson and Taylor $1,800 each.
Houston hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, his wife Laura and their foundation gave a combined $23,900 to the four candidates, while Katherine Bradley, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based education philanthropy CityBridge Foundation gave a combined $6,500 to the group.
Locally, Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes gave Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor a combined $18,000. Denver Art Museum president Cathey Finlon gave O’Brien and Johnson each $500 and gave $1,000 to both Taylor and Rodriguez.
Fundraising in the district board race appears to be proceeding at a similar pace to the 2011 board races. Candidates this year raised more money in the second filing round than they did in 2011, but overall fundraising levels are a bit less than they were at this point in the 2011 race, when candidates had raised around $790,000.
Candidates will file campaign finance reports one final time, after next week’s election.Contributions in other districts
In Jefferson County, an independent committee named Believe in Better Schools reported spending $22,804, most of it in support of candidates that have been endorsed by the county Republican Party. Those include Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt.
Spending was on newspaper and social media advertising and on direct mail.
The group received its funding from Jeffco Students First Action, a group that has been critical of district policies but which itself doesn’t have to report its contributors.
Here’s a breakdown of total direct contributions to candidates:
District 1 – Tonya Aultman-Bettridge reported $23,749, plus $3,300 in loans. Williams has total contributions of $5,756.
District 2 – Newkirk has raised $4,785 while Jeff Lamontagne has raised $55,539, including a small contribution from the Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee and $8,166 from the Public Education Committee, an affiliate of the Colorado Education Association.
District 5 – Witt has raised $11,037 while Gordan Van de Water has raised $37,395.
Races for three seats in the Grand Junction-based Mesa 51 district have a partisan tone, with county Republicans endorsing a slate of candidates and out-of-district conservative donors providing funding for those candidates.
In the latest reporting period, GOP-endorsed candidates each received $2,000 contributions from Ralph Nagel, president of Top Rock LLC, a Denver-based investment company, and a strong supporter of school choice. Nagel also has provided substantial donations to conservative board candidates in Douglas County.
The Mesa GOP candidates, Patrick Kanda, Michael Lowenstein and John Sluder, each previously received $5,000 from C. Edward McVaney of Greenwood Village, a retired software company owner. McVaney is on the board of ACE Scholarships and was a founder of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.
Despite the out-of-district donations, opponents of those three candidates lead in overall fundraising. Here’s the rundown:
In District C, Kanda has raised $7,344 compared to $11,046 for John Williams, who’s received support from the Mesa Valley Education Association, the local union. A third candidate, Lonnie White, hasn’t filed any financial reports.
In District D, Lowenstein has raised $9,143, trailing opponent Tom Parrish’s $12,367.
In District E, Sluder has raised $8,101 compared to $8,627 for opponent Greg Mokolai. He’s also received help from the Mesa Valley teachers union.
Nagel and McVaney also have donated to candidates in the Thompson school district, where a group named Liberty Watch is backing Donna Rice, Bryce Carlson, Rocci Bryan and Carl Langer.
Those candidates have raised a total of $33,150, with $26,000 of that from McVaney and Nagel.
The other candidates, Lori Ward, Gerald Lauer and incumbents Jeff Berg and Janice Marchman, have raised a total of $15,002. Some of them have received support from union committees.
This post has been updated to add information about fundraising in other districts and about individual donors.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing a significant increase in higher education spending and enrollment-plus-inflation growth for K-12 in his 2014-15 budget plan, which was released Friday.
The plan includes a $60 million increase for state college and universities, an 11 percent jump. (They got a $30 million increase for the current 2013-14 budget year.) The tradeoff is that the administration wants institutions to limit tuition increases to no more than 6 percent for the school year in fall 2014.
“We feel like we have a pretty good handshake agreement with the governing boards” to do that, said state budget director Henry Sobanet. Under a law that expires in 2015, colleges are free to raise tuition up to 9 percent a year, and they can levy bigger increases with approval of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
The governor’s request also includes $40 million in additional state financial aid, a 42 percent increase over the roughly $100 million in the current budget. Need-based aid would get a $30 million, $5 million would be used to restore the state’s defunct merit aid program and work-study would get a $5 million boost.
As it happened, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education met Friday afternoon and got a report on the governor’s plan. Commission chair Dick Kaufman said, “We’re pleased the governor is supportive of the statewide goals of preserving access by controlling tuition increases and increasing financial aid. Doing so will allow us to increase the number of Coloradans with college degrees, thus strengthening our workforce.”
The budget plan has less dramatic news for K-12 schools, proposing a $258.4 million increase in what’s called Total Program Funding, which covers classroom and administrative operating costs. (No additional caseload funding is proposed for the Colorado Preschool Program.) Total program, a combination of state and local revenue, this year is about $5.5 billion. The increase would amount to $223 per student on top of the current $6,652 statewide average.
About half the increase would be supported by the State Education fund, a dedicated account used to supplement school funding. The administration said that’s because money from the state’s main account, the General Fund, needs to be freed up for disaster recovery.
The education fund currently has a balance of more than $1 billion, and the administration would like to leave $700 million in the account at the end of 2014-15. Hickenlooper’s longer-term goal is that the fund balance never dips below $400 million.Do your homework
The required Nov. 1 release of the budget marks the unofficial start of the legislative “preseason,” the period after the election and before Christmas when the Joint Budget Committee begins hearings and when lawmakers begin polishing up bills ahead of the legislative session’s January start.
Amendment 66, the proposed $950 million income-tax increase for K-12 schools, looms large over this year’s announcement. Passage of the plan won’t necessarily have a major impact on 2014-15 school spending. That’s because A66’s companion school-funding formula, Senate Bill 13-213, won’t kick in until the 2015-16 school year.
But A66 approval by voters might mean some adjustment in 2014-15 spending, because the amendment requires that at least 43 percent of General Fund revenues be devoted to schools. (As it happens, Hickenlooper’s budget proposes spending 43 percent of General Fund revenues on K-12.) And because the new revenue would start flowing into state coffers Jan. 1, SB 13-213 includes provisions that require placing revenue earned between then and June 30, 2015, in four reserve accounts.
Voter rejection of A66 could spark major debates in 2014 over use of the State Education Fund as education advocates look for additional K-12 funding. Many district officials and some legislators were unhappy after the 2013 session closed because Hickenlooper and legislative leadership made only modest use of the fund and didn’t increase 2013-14 school funding as much as many advocates had hoped.
Sobanet and Roxanne White, the governor’s chief of staff, said they’d have more to say on A66 issues next week after the election is over and the result is known.
The governor’s budget is the start of a long process that won’t end until lawmakers approve a final 2014-15 budget late next April. Given the legislature’s constitutional budgeting powers, significant changes often are made in the governor’s plan.
A year ago, Hickenlooper proposed a K-12 increase of $201.6 million in 2013-14, plus a $30 million boost for higher education. That amounted to a 4.8 percent increase in all state K-12 spending and a 2.3 percent boost for state colleges and universities.
In the end, the legislative approved Total Program Funding of $5.5 billion, an increase of about $210 million with a per-pupil increase of some 2.7 percent.
The 2013-14 school finance law made only a small bite in what’s called the negative factor, a mathematical formula used by the legislature to reduce school funding from what it would have been under the full terms of Amendment 23, the 2000 constitutional amendment that currently guides education funding.
Hickenlooper’s 2014-15 plan would leave the negative factor at just under 15 percent. This year it’s just above that percentage. It’s estimated that use of the negative factor over the last several years has cut K-12 funding by more than $1 billion from what it otherwise would have been.
Hickenlooper himself made no public comment on the budget plan Friday but will present it to the budget committee and answer questions during a hearing next Thursday morning.
The governor’s total budget proposal is $24 billion, including $9 billion from the general fund. His plan amounts to a 4.5 percent increase.
Nearly 100 assistant principals who can’t find full-time jobs are suddenly in the market for year-long positions thanks to an influx of new school duties that have overwhelmed some principals this school year.
To give school leaders a hand in executing responsibilities related to the city’s new teacher evaluation system, the Department of Education is dangling the extra administrators at a steeply discounted price to schools that need but can’t afford them. Already, the department was rotating “excessed” assistant principals across schools monthly, and has assigned dozens of them to eligible schools at no cost.
Now, it is offering to pay up to 60 percent of an AP’s salary if principals hire them up for the rest of the year.
The new evaluation system has administrators on the hook to conduct four or more classroom observations per teacher and communicate more with teachers about their lessons than ever before. Every observation comes with paperwork to complete, too. The added work comes on top of a job that already had principals feeling more squeezed every year.
“Principals are going to need more support and we hope that they will get it,” said Mark Cannizzaro, executive vice president of the Council for Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing principals.For the most part, the city has tried to deliver that support from outside schools. In the central administration, the department hired at least 85 people away from schools to work as talent coaches help administer students tests that are being used as a measure of student learning on the evaluations. The coaches are fanning out across the city to help principals implement the teacher evaluations.
But principals and assistant principals are the only people legally allowed to conduct required observations, so some school leaders have looked to bulk up their administrative teams. The “excess pool” of administrators without permanent positions had nearly 200 people in it early this year, but it shrank over the summer and in the first two months of the school year, to 95.
The pool consists of administrators, mostly assistant principals, who lost their positions because of budget cuts, school closures, or discipline and who have not yet secured new jobs within the system.
A department spokesman said the subsidy was first offered to particularly vulnerable schools, such as those that are closing or that have administrators on leave. So far, 76 assistant principals have been placed in schools for the full year, the majority being sent at no cost to schools, the spokesman said.
CSA President Ernest Logan told members of his union in an email alert earlier this week that all principals should have equal access to the administrator subsidy. “We will continue to lobby the Chancellor to make this possibility a reality for all 1,800 of you,” he wrote in a message that informed principals that the subsidy had been extended selectively so far.
Shortly after Logan sent out his message, a notice from the DOE went out to all principals of an opportunity to have excessed assistant principals assigned to their schools, though it did not include a mention of the potential for a discount. The department spokesman said that interested principals talk to their support networks for the subsidy, but that it won’t be guaranteed.
CSA opposes the city’s decision to rotate reserve APs on a monthly basis and took the issue to arbitration. An arbitration hearing on the matter was scheduled for this week.
But the city defended its AP rotation policy, arguing that it is an effective tool to reduce the number of people whose salaries are being covered without them having any permanent position in a school.
“We have found over time that by rotating staff, they are much more likely to find positions,” said the department spokesman, Devon Puglia.
One principal of a large high school in Queens said he wouldn’t be taking advantage of the deal. He said that providing critical feedback to teachers about their instruction was a delicate interpersonal skill that relied on strong bonds and mutual trust.
“It wouldn’t be my style to bring in an outsider,” said Hillcrest High School Principal Stephen Duch. “There’s a responsibility of coaching, and if you don’t have someone who intimately know the teacher’s abilities, you’re not going to have somebody who’s going ot be able to guide the teacher to the next level.”
Hillcrest, Duch said, benefits from its large size: He said he has a staff of eight assistant principals to handle the school’s 180 teachers.
“My AP for social studies told me today that he has finally completed one observation for all of his teachers and he has 22 teachers to observe,” Duch said, adding that he’s done 16 observations so far.
Small high schools with just one or two assistant principals would be more likely to need the extra help, he said. So, he said, would be schools that haven’t changed their practices in anticipation of new evaluations — ”the school that haven’t really been delving into the Danielson work for the last couple years.”
Tuesday’s election offers voters a chance to recalibrate Denver Public School’s board of directors — and moneyed interests are piling up donations to see the election go their way.
The election has been framed as a referendum on the accountability-based reform policies the district has implemented and that have been supported by a razor-thin 4-3 board majority. Observers believe the outcome of the four contested seats could either cement the board’s support for accountability and school choice with a supermajority; totally reverse course and shift toward more traditional policies of support for neighborhood schools and reduced emphasis on standardized tests; or continue the status quo of a deeply divided and, in some ways, intractable board.
But in part because of a perception among supporters of the district’s reforms that the future of their policies hinges on the outcome of the election, the story of the 2013 school board campaign has become one of a battle of big money pouring in to sway voters to their side.
“I think the groups backing reform see this as high stakes and have pulled out the big guns,” said University of Colorado School of Public Affairs Dean Paul Teske.
On one side, a small contingent of deep-pocketed donors, well-connected political operatives and sophisticated supporters have united to back four high-profile school board candidates whom they hope will sweep the table to reinforce and possibly speed the district’s commitment to school choice, teacher accountability and data-driven decision-making.
This network has created a sophisticated and well-funded electoral machine that is dwarfing their candidates’ rivals, who are banking on support primarily from their own smaller and less-organized coalition of the teachers union, community activists and small donors.
The slate that supports the current district administration, which is already backed by nearly $500,000 in combined campaign donations, includes former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien running at-large, former Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez in west Denver’s District 2, lawyer Mike Johnson in central Denver’s District 3 and Urban League executive Landri Taylor in northeast Denver’s District 4.
Taylor is the only incumbent running for re-election. He was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy.
Candidates concerned about the district’s trajectory, and who are likely to reverse course if elected, are software company manager Michael Kiley in the at-large race, community organizer Rosario C. de Baca in District 2, activist and school volunteer Meg Schomp in District 3 and water engineer Roger Kilgore in District 4. Combined, these four candidates have raised a little more than $115,769.
A third at-large candidate, former DPS paraprofessional Joan Poston, doesn’t fall into either camp and, as of yet, is not accepting donations.Reformers, with their own machine, outpace critics, union
Traditionally, liberal candidates for school boards across the country have been able to count on the support and infrastructure of teachers unions. But during the past decade, battles over school reform have re-shaped the political dynamics and created a clear ideological divide among candidates on the left between traditional progressives and those who support market-based educational policies.
Candidates who have backed the Denver reform movement during the last six years have began to aggressively build their own money machines to counteract the influence of the union. And an analysis of campaign filings and interviews with more than a dozen donors, activists and supporters suggest this pattern is solidifying and expanding.
“The people who have been concerned about the role of unions in elections have caught up,” Teske said.
While the Denver Classroom Teachers Association Fund has still posted the largest single contributions to date, donating $15,000 to each of the skeptics of accountability-based reform, the reform slate is outpacing the critics nearly three to one in both small and large gifts.
So far, a little more than half of all monetary contributions to either slate of candidates has come from just a handful of individuals and organizations. But the patterns and volume of giving — and how that money has been spent — are as staunchly different as the slates themselves.
High dollar bloc donations to candidates who support reform include $12,000 from Denver real estate broker John Freyer, who gave $3,000 to each of the four candidates, and another $12,500 from Boston hedge fund executive Charles Ledley. Ledley gave $4,000 to Johnson and O’Brien, $2,500 to Taylor and $2,000 to Rodriguez.
In total, 50 individuals or organizations gave to three or more reform candidates, with an average donation of $5,215 and individual amounts ranging from $75 to $10,000.
In contrast, 10 individuals and organizations gave an average of $6,058 to three or more of the candidates who generally disagree with the reform policies in amounts ranging from $50 to $15,000.
The average for this group of candidates is greater due to the weight of donations from the DCTA Fund. The next single largest donation was $250, given to Schomp from Laura Lefkowits. Lefkowits gave the slate of critics $500 in total.
Stripping away the large and coordinated gifts to both slates reveals a similar pattern — pro-reform candidates are out-fundraising their critics by, on average , a rate of four to one.
Total giving from about 1,000 small and uncoordinated donors for pro-reform candidates exceeds $200,000, while the administration’s critics mustered a little more than $55,000 from 438 donors. The average unbundled donation to an individual candidate of reform stock is $203. The average unbundled donation to an individual candidate proposing a new course for DPS is $126.A candidate by any other name
The contrast in giving can be attributed to two major factors: the reform candidates bring with them high name recognition, and have benefited from a coordination of consultants and technology that has redefined how politicians raise money.
All four pro-reform candidates retained political consultant Craig Hughes, whose wife, Sarah Kendall Hughes is a top lieutenant to former DPS Superintendent and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
Additionally, both Taylor and Rodriguez sought counsel from Denver-based Derrington Consulting, while Johnson and O’Brien received voter contact assistance from Washington-based firm NPG Van.
O’Brien, Taylor, Rodriguez and Johnson had the same Web and social media firm, 4Degrees, develop their individual websites. The campaigns all utilized Democracy Engine, a Web software to develop and engage donors. And Paychex, a payroll processing company, is the pro-reform choice for human resources.A tale of two grandparents
One of the largest contributors to the pro-reform slate is University of Colorado President Bruce Benson. So far, he’s given $33,000 to the four candidates.
Benson, a Republican who has a long history working alongside Democrats on education issues, has four grandchildren in DPS and he believes the changes made in the district by Bennet and current Superintendent Tom Boasberg are working.
“The system means a lot to me,” he said. “I want a good school system, and we continue to make headway. … I support Tom Boasberg and we need to keep him.”
As reform goes, Boasberg has become a polarizing symbol for the argument for and against. Reform detractors claim the Boasberg’s leadership has gone unchecked by the current board.
Another grandparent to DPS students, Judy Wolfe, who donated $25 to Kilgore and who plans to donate more to his campaign and the rest of the slate as the election winds down, said she hopes her new board members will hold the district accountable.
“I hope Roger challenges (Boasberg),” she said at an Oct. 30 fundraiser for the candidate. “I’m not nuts about they way things are going. I feel a lot of our (good) schools are only for families who have a lot of extra time to send their kids across town. Every neighborhood should have a school parents want to send their child to.”