Updated 12:45 p.m. April 30 – The House Tuesday voted 52-12 to pass the bill needed to fund K-12 education in the coming school year.
Text of Monday story follows.
The bill needed to fund K-12 education in the coming school year breezed through preliminary House consideration Monday evening.
The easy passage of Senate Bill 13-260 was in contrast to some of the suspense around the bill in the Senate Education Committee (see story) and the drama both on the Senate floor (see story) and in the House Education Committee (see story).
For school districts, the bill is a welcome change from the school finance bills of recent budget-cut years. Total program funding, the combination of state and local funding that pays for basic school operations, would rise to $5.5 billion, increase of about $210 million. Average per pupil funding would rise from the current $6,479 to $6,652, a 2.7 percent increase. (Get more details on the bill here.)
Sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, proposed a successful amendment to require that 75 percent of any excess state revenues at the end of 2013-14 go into the State Education Fund, the dedicated account used to supplement education funding. As the bill came from the Senate, only 50 percent of the surplus would have gone to the education fund.
There was a brief out-of-left-field moment when Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, proposed amendment to eliminate a tax exemption for newspaper advertising inserts and put the $6 million raised into special education. No one was quite sure where that came from, and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, went to the podium to note that Republicans usually oppose elimination of tax exemptions. The amendment was defeated.
Asked why the bill moved so quickly on the House floor in contrast to the drama at earlier stages, one lobbyist quipped, “They’re tired.” The 2013 session has to adjourn by May 8.Also on the move Monday
• The House overwhelming rejected a conference committee report on House Bill 13-1081, the controversial bill to create a new grant program for districts programs in comprehensive human sexuality education. The House wants a new conference committee to talk about language in the bill related to abstinence education.
• The House Education Committee gave 12-0 approval to Senate Bill 13-214, the measure that would require the Building Excellent Schools Today program to maintain a reserve equal to annual lease-purchase payments and give the legislative Capitol Development Committee final review of BEST lease-purchase project lists.
• House Education was divided on Senate Bill 13-193, which passed on a 7-6 party-line vote. The measure is intended to encourage increased involvement of school accountability committees in school improvement plans, would require school districts to have a designated staff member as a parent contact and allow the state Department of Education to hire a parent involvement specialist.
Committee Republicans were skeptical of the need for the bill and its cost. Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, even attempted to amend the bill to include the text of his defeated House Bill 13-1172, which proposed a parent trigger law and an A-F grading system for schools. That went nowhere.
• The Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 13-279, which would require new school buildings to meet various energy efficiency standards.
• The Senate State Affairs committee passed House Bill 13-1257, which would give CDE oversight of educator evaluation systems when districts choose to create their own.Budget bill now law
Gov. John Hickenlooper Monday signed Senate Bill 13-230, the 2013-14 state budget. The bill contains base funding for K-12 education, which will be augmented by money in SB 13-260 (see above). The bill also includes $31 million in additional funding for higher education, a boost of $5.3 million in need-based financial aid and about $102 million for college campus construction and renovation projects.
Hundreds of students, advocates, legislators and educators crowded a room at Metropolitan State University’s Auraria campus on Monday to watch Gov. John Hickenlooper sign a bill making undocumented students who graduated from Colorado high schools eligible for in-state tuition.passed the Colorado House, its final hurdle before signing, on March 8.
“This is the first step,” Hickenlooper said, arguing that the new law points the way to national immigration reform. “We’re opening the door — you guys are going to have to do all the work.”
Marco Dorado, now a student at CU-Boulder who said his Colorado education is funded by generous individuals and organizations, told the audience that he had lived in Colorado since he was two years old. But he said he realized he was less than typical as he prepared to go to college lacking “those ever-important nine digits” — a social security number.
Dorado and Hickenlooper were joined by Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, several state legislators and other advocates for the bill. State Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, told the crowd in an emotional statement “in Colorado, the doors are open and the dream is alive.”
See who will qualify for in-state tuition under the ASSET bill here.
Do grandma and grandpa live in Damascus or Detroit, but still want to see their grandchild graduate in Douglas County?
The Douglas County School District this week announced plans to live-stream all 13 of its high school graduations this spring. The announcement comes after the district’s successful pilot program last year livestreaming four graduations, all of which were held at Sports Authority Stadium in Parker.
This year’s ambitious plan encompasses seven different locations.
“This is such a tremendous community and global outreach,” said Dougco schools spokesman Randy Barber. “Last year we had an exchange student’s family from Germany tune in and a grandmother who was recovering from surgery in Phoenix and several others who couldn’t be at the stadium.”
The majority of the graduations will be broadcast live on the district’s Livestream account. The video will be available on DougTV (Comcast Channel 54), the District’s app and DCSD’s Youtube and Facebook accounts.
On a recent school day, the sixth-graders in Natalie Lin’s intro to Mandarin class at the Denver Center for International Studies went into drill mode. The group of students who could most quickly — and accurately — write out Chinese characters on pint-sized white boards were rewarded with White Rabbits, chewy vanilla-flavored candies wrapped in edible rice paper.
Among other things, the 17 students in this class — most of whom already speak English and Spanish — were learning how to remember what the characters look like. The character for “little brother,” for instance, resembles two parents, a sidewalk and a little boy running around like crazy and falling down, student Andre Munoz said.
Faith Carbajal, 11, was especially adept with her accent, taking any opportunity to raise her hand and speak Chinese aloud.
“I know most of the world speaks Chinese,” she said after class. “I wanted to learn it. I want to travel to China.”
Foreign language study is entrenched in the culture of DCIS-Montbello, a turnaround school in Far Northeast Denver. But this scene remains an anomaly in many Colorado schools. Even as other states and school districts put a growing premium on K-12 students learning languages other than English to make them more employable, few Colorado districts require foreign language for graduation.Learn more
Teachers of what are now commonly dubbed “world languages” fear that a growing emphasis on standardized tests in core subjects is to blame for a lack of clear and cohesive policy around foreign language instruction. They say learning other languages gives students a competitive advantage in a global economy, builds cultural understanding and demonstrates readiness for college-level coursework.
“World languages have been identified by the U.S. State Department as a very important 21st century skill,” said Jefferson County Public Schools world language coordinator Anna Crocker. “We’re losing globally. We’re losing out because in other countries, their students are graduating with one — if not two and three — languages. In a global market, our graduates are at a disadvantage.”
Two separate processes are now underway that could influence the emphasis placed on world languages in Colorado. First, state K-12 officials are in the process of refining graduation guidelines that are expected to be approved in May, though districts would not be required to adopt them. Higher education leaders, meanwhile, are in the midst of tweaking college admissions requirements, which are expected to be vigorously debated in the fall.What Colorado districts require
About 19 states have some kind of language requirement for high school graduation. Some states have a straight-up requirement for all students, such as New York’s one-year language requirement for students to earn a standard diploma. Other states offer tiered diplomas — meaning the higher-level academic diploma may require learning a language, while another diploma — aimed more at workforce readiness — may not.
In Colorado, by contrast, world language offerings and instruction vary from district to district and school to school.
“The requirements for high school graduation have been 100 percent determined by local control,” said Jo O’Brien, assistant commissioner of strategic priorities and research for the Colorado Department of Education. “The only requirement in statute right now has been and has been for years, half a credit in civics education. Then, it’s jump ball.”
A Graduation Guidelines Council is currently composing recommendations regarding “meet or exceed” high school graduation guidelines to the State Board of Education next month after being in the works for years — and after a delay due to the roll-out of the Common Core State Standards and new state tests.
O’Brien said that the council has agreed that math, literacy, science and social studies will be the four content areas where guidelines for competency or mastery would be established. For other subjects, such as world languages, it would be entirely up to the local community.
Some districts are working on boosting their requirements. Beginning with the class of 2015, Aurora Public Schools will require one unit of credit (equivalent to one year of study) in a foreign language, according to Susan Olezene, director of student achievement for curriculum and professional learning. Several schools, including Vista PEAK Preparatory, require two years.
Not all Colorado schools are headed in this direction, however. A year ago, members of the Eagle Valley High School community protested when the school board laid off three foreign language teachers and replaced them with a computer program called Aventa.
And, like many Colorado school districts, Douglas County does not require foreign language courses as part of its graduation requirements. But that doesn’t mean students don’t enroll in foreign language programs, said Steve Johnson, director of high school education in Dougco.
“One of the things that drive enrollment for foreign language (enrollment)… are entrance requirements for colleges,” Johnson said. “What colleges would love to see is a student taking four years of a language.”State sets bar at two years foreign language, then lowers to one
Colorado’s public colleges and universities in general followed the lead of the Higher Education Admission Requirements, or HEAR, in 2008. These are minimum college eligibility requirements, but there is a no guaranteed admission under the policy.
Initially the requirements were silent on foreign language, said Matt Gianneschi, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. But in 2010 the state began requiring two years of world language for someone applying to a baccalaureate degree granting institution. That was later reduced to only one year.
“Most districts have watched those as a kind of guidance for understanding what should be in their high school exit policies,” O’Brien said.
Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language, said more states — while not necessarily setting college admission requirements — are trying to get the word out about the importance of a world language in this way.
“We all know that one year is not going to get you very high on a proficiency scale,” Abbott said. “But a long sequence of language study is an indicator that a student has the ability to stick with a subject. There is a cumulative angle to it. They look at it as a litmus test for students who can succeed at a college level with college work.”
The minimum higher ed admissions requirements are currently being revised to reflect a changing landscape in Colorado that includes more high school students earning college credit through concurrent enrollment and a growing number of students who speak more than one language without ever having taken a class. Gianneschi said officials are exploring how to handle high school students who are bilingual or trilingual and can demonstrate command of more than one language without having earned credit for it.
Discussions are also centered around evaluating competency versus seat time and understanding which students really need to know additional languages. Take a student who excels at math and science but only speaks English. Should this student be able to bypass foreign language requirements, Gianneschi wonders.
People like Crocker, Jeffco’s world language coordinator, say the need for world language is a no-brainer.
“Graduates from universities who have multi-language skills are being snapped up,” Crocker said. “It’s certainly a competitive edge. That is the big picture. Colorado needs to step up to the plate and get our kids into the market.”CU-Boulder requires three years of world language
Colorado’s flagship college — the University of Colorado at Boulder — has among the most rigorous foreign language admissions standards. The school’s Minimum Academic Preparation Standards, or MAPS, require more or less foreign language based on the field of study. In environmental design or the College of Music, for instance, an incoming student should have two full years of a single language, said Kevin MacLennan, CU-Boulder’s director of admissions. For a student entering the College of Arts and Sciences, the Leeds School of Business or the journalism and mass communications program, three years is required. In engineering, incoming students should have three years of a single foreign language or two years each in two different languages.
However, the requirements are flexible, MacLennan said. A student with only two years of Spanish, for instance, can still be admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences but he or she will have to take – and pass – a third level Spanish class at CU before graduation.
MacLennan pointed out that in some rural parts of the state there aren’t teachers available to teach higher-level language courses.
“We admit students with deficiencies, but they have to make them up,” he said.
University of Northern Colorado requires one year of world language as part of its admissions requirements. Colorado State University requires students to have two or more years of the same world language in their transcripts, but admissions officials like to see even more. But if a student has a compelling reason he or she did not pursue a second year of foreign languages — maybe the school’s offerings were limited — CSU admissions officials can be flexible, said Jim Rawlins, CSU executive director of admissions.
“While we would even prefer that students take three years, or perhaps start a second non-native language as well instead, two years is what we present as what we want to see,” Rawlins said.What’s happening in other states
Nearby Utah is on the leading edge of states pushing to incorporate world languages into public school curriculum, in part due to the Mormon faith’s missionary efforts overseas and the premium its lawmakers place on global competitiveness. The New York Times recently documented the state’s efforts, pointing out that nearly half the state’s 41 school districts offer dual immersion programs in which elementary school students spend half the day learning in English and half in a foreign language.
And Connecticut just updated its college admissions requirements for state universities to go into effect in 2015. Students will need two years of foreign language, but three are recommended.
On the flip side, the Detroit News last month reported that foreign language studies could be de-emphasized in Michigan by a bill that would drop it as a high school graduation requirement. Backers say the change would offer more flexibility for students who plan to bypass college for a technical career.
Whatever is happening in Colorado — from blossoming dual immersion programs at elementary schools — is often led by teachers, said Toni Theisen, a French teacher in the Thompson school district who is also president of the 13,000-member American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Theisen said it’s a constant battle for world language teachers to demonstrate to policymakers the value of learning a language in a classroom setting. But she said that Colorado’s foreign language teachers have proven up to the task, taking an active role in meeting with policymakers, being involved in piloting assessments related to Senate Bill 10-191, the teacher effectiveness policy, and keeping their cause at the fore.
And, they are happy to point out that the 2013 National Language Teacher of the Year, Noah Geisel, is a teacher at Denver’s East High School. While Denver no longer requires foreign language for graduation, there are a range of schools that offer languages ranging from Mandarin to Lakota.
Number of world language teachers: 56, including three at elementary level; 16 at middle school level; and 37 at high school level.
Languages taught: German, French, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin
Number of students enrolled in foreign language classes: 7,694 and they break down as follows:
Graduation requirement: No foreign language requirement; however foreign language can fit under the six credits required in electives or two in arts.Aurora Public Schools
Number of world language teachers: 34 world language teachers – 20 high school; nine at middle school level; one at the K-8 level; three at K-12 schools; and one at the elementary level.
Languages taught: French, German, Spanish and Chinese
Graduation requirement: No foreign language required for graduation; but the class of 2015 will be required to have one unit of world language.Cherry Creek Schools
Number of world language teachers: 114 teachers
Languages taught: Spanish, French, Arabic, German, Japanese, Mandarin and Latin
Graduation requirement: World language is not required but highly encouraged for college-going students.Colorado Springs District 11
Number of world language teachers: 40
Number of students enrolled in foreign language classes: 3,705
Languages taught: Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Latin, Japanese
Graduation requirement: District 11 has no graduation requirement for world languages, but world languages can be counted as a humanities/electives credit.Denver Public Schools
Number of world language teachers: 103, not including charter or dual language immersion schools.
Languages taught: Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Lakota.
Graduation requirement: There was a world language requirement between 2007 and 2009 but it was eliminated due to budget constraints. Now, there is no specific world language requirement. Foreign language falls under the academic elective requirements for graduation.Jeffco Public Schools
Number of world language teachers: 162 secondary teachers (middle and high school). (This does not include the charter and option schools nor the dual language programs at the elementary level.)
Number of students enrolled in world language classes: 34,919
Languages taught: French, German, Japanese and Spanish in schools; Chinese, Spanish and Russian online.
Graduation requirement: No foreign language requirement.
Longtime school finance lawyer, Denver Public Schools volunteer and dad of three teen daughters, Michael Johnson this week said that he is seriously considering running for the school board seat now held by term-limited Jeannie Kaplan.
Also throwing a name in the District 3 ring, representing central Denver, is Meg Schomp.
Johnson, co-chair of the district’s mill oversight committee, said he’ll make his decision in the next few weeks.
One complicating factor is that DPS is one of his primary clients. He handles both legal issues surrounding school finances and bonds, and is also lead counsel for the Colorado State Treasurer’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) K-12 capital construction program.
If he won a seat on the board, Johnson would have to cut his professional ties with DPS.
Johnson, 62, said he has been active in his children’s schools since 1998, most recently as co-chair of the collaborative school committee at Denver School of the Arts. He also served on the committee that helped put together the plan for the bond and mill levy approved by an overwhelming percentage of voters in November. Johnson described public education as one of his core passions.
“I care a lot about kids’ education,” Johnson said. “Public schools have been really extremely important in my life. I’m first in my family to go to college and public school teachers made me who I am.”
Read about the other candidates who have declared — or are pondering — a run for the DPS board in a race that is sure to be a humdinger. While Schomp has been endorsed by Kaplan, one of the board’s three members who have been vocal critics of Superintendent Tom Boasberg and the district’s current direction in terms of school reform; it stands to reason that Johnson would be more in line with members of the board majority. But, we’ll have to wait and see…
This House Monday voted 37-28 to approve a massive update of the way the state pays for schools. No Republicans support the bill, as was the case in the Senate.
Senate Bill 13-213 had been scheduled for a final vote Friday, but contention over a last-minute amendment derailed the bill. A revised version of that amendment was approved Monday before the final vote.
The amendment was needed because if voters approve a tax increase this fall, additional revenue would start flowing in 2014, but SB 13-213′s new costs wouldn’t kick in until July 1, 2015.
Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, proposed a revised amendment that would put up to 40 percent of that revenue into a new education reserve fund, up to 40 percent into the Building Excellent Schools Today construction fund and smaller amounts into an educator effectiveness fund and an education technology fund.
There was a brief moment of confusion when Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, attempted to offer a substitute amendment that would have launched the whole SB 13-213 a year early, in 2014-15. There was some disagreement over whether the amendment was in order, and the bill was briefly laid over. Murray withdrew her amendment after the bill was brought back up.Details
During a polite final round of debate, Republicans said they couldn’t support the bill because it lacks real education reform. Democratic speakers supported it, saying it’s needed to provide funding equity, expand early childhood education and fund some of the education reforms enacted in recent years.
Here are some snippets from that debate:
Hamner ended the debate saying that the bill’s increased spending on preschool and full-day kindergarten “are huge reforms and huge investments in what works.”
SB 13-213 would increase funding for kindergarten and preschool, provide significantly more money for districts with the highest concentrations of at-risk students and English language learners, devote more money to special education and make extra payments to districts for the cost of implementing reform mandates.
Because the Colorado constitution requires tax increases be approved by voters, the funding piece of the proposal would have to be passed in a statewide election.
Discussions about school finance reform started among education, business and civic groups two years ago and involved hundreds of meetings and private conversations, most of them involving the bill’s eventual sponsors, Sen. Mike Johnston and his cosponsor, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder. But the bill’s progress through the legislature has been torturous.
Minority Republicans have consistently opposed the bill, saying it doesn’t contain enough education “reform” but many of them really meaning that they oppose raising taxes.
Lobbying from a variety of education interest groups has forced a variety of significant changes in the bill. After all that work, few interest groups – ranging from charter schools to school districts to business groups – remain whole-hearted in their support, or in their opposition.Johnston upbeat about SB 13-213 changes
The always-upbeat Sen. Mike Johnston was all smiles Monday morning after the House gave final approval to SB 13-213, the Denver Democrat’s proposed modernization of the state’s school finance system.
He dismissed any thought that the long amendment process in the Senate had House had weakened the bill, saying, “I think the bill is actually stronger” than the version he introduced back on March 8. “The legislative process worked.”
Johnston cited sections related to charter schools, enrollment counting and financial reporting as parts of the bill that were improved.
Asked about Republican objections to the potential $1 billion cost of the bill, Johnston said, “There are folks who believe you don’t need any more revenue,” adding, “A great majority of us” believe schools needs stronger funding.” The facts are against them.”
Even though no Republican voted for the bill in either chamber, Johnston said be believed at the start of the process that he might get some GOP support. He indicated GOP members’ aversion to taxes overcome support for some of the bill’s policies. (During final floor debate in both houses several Republicans argued that the bill falls short on education reform.)
Given that calendars are in flux during the session’s closing days, Johnston said he didn’t know when the bill will come up in the Senate for consideration of amendments. He is expected to ask the Senate to concur with House amendments.
LiveWell Colorado is sponsoring a Twitter Chat from 10-11 a.m. on May 1 with Jamie Atlas, a personal trainer and wellness coach also known as the “Rally Man.”
The chat will help participants create momentum for healthy changes with LiveWell’s “4-Day Challenges.” Participants who ask questions or make comments will be eligible for a Qdoba Mexican Grill entrée card and prizes such as yoga mats and flexible cutting boards. Join the conversation in the #HealthyCO Tweet Chat room or follow along with the #HealthyCO hashtag.
Denver dad and former school board candidate Christopher Scott argues that Denver school officials should be held accountable for poor student performance and the rising cost of the district’s debt.
One of the core principles of the contemporary education reform movement is the concept of accountability. In fact, Denver Public Schools’ Board Policy A – Policy Framework for Accelerating Gains in Academic Achievement for all Students, which the board adopted in 2009, states that “accountability for performance by all adults matter.”
But it must not be clear to DPS’ current sitting school board what their predecessors meant by “all adults.” Two events from the past week make this fact painfully clear.
Last week, the Colorado Commission of Higher Education released its annual report on student remediation needs – a direct indicator of how well a district is preparing its students for college.
Of DPS’ graduates enrolling in Colorado’s higher education system in 2011, 60 percent needed to take remedial course work in one or more subjects. Though the district will surely tout that the percentage has declined slightly over the past several years, DPS’ drop from a rate of 63.6 percent to 60.4 percent means that 46 fewer kids required remediation this year than last.
The week before the remediation numbers were announced, the Denver board directed district staff to refinance $537 million in bonds. The backstory is complicated, but here’s a quick summary: in 2008, DPS used a complex derivatives-based financing scheme to fund its $400 million unpaid pension liability. This debt was refinanced in 2011, taking half of the $750 million principal and moving it to fixed rate debt (like a mortgage) and leaving half of the debt in a derivative-based variable rate financing. Three weeks ago, the board of education directed DPS staff to move the remaining variable rate debt to fixed-rate financing.
Each of these events came at a cost, however:
As of the end of 2011, DPS had rebuilt its unfunded pension liability to $600 million, or 1.5 times more than the liability in 2008, when DPS said its pension funding level was a crisis.
And, when all was said and done, the Denver Business Journal reports that DPS’ interest rate on its now $1.03 billion debt is 6.7 percent. This rate is very close to what DPS could have achieved in 2008, without the derivatives scheme that has directly cost taxpayers almost $250 million.
The short version of this story is this: the District now owes $1.6 billion on a debt that was $400 million.
DPS claims that the 2008 financing deal was necessary to its retirement system’s merger with PERA. But DPS closed the deal a year before the law requiring the merger was signed. And the DPS pension system was again under-funded by $387 million when merger took place in 2010.
Accountability for performance by all adults matters. If this is true, how is Denver’s board of education handling accountability for the fact that 60 percent of DPS graduates who make it to college are unprepared? What about the use of $1 billion in District funds — $250 million more than DPS’ annual operating budget — to fund a $400 million debt, a debt that is now $600 million three years later?
Put another way, let’s say DPS is a corporation. What would happen to the CEO if 60 percent of the company’s product failed once the consumer purchased it? And what if this same CEO put the company $1 billion in debt to fund a $400 million liability, all the while allowing that same liability to regrow to $600 million?
The Board of Directors would fire the CEO, that’s what would happen. And if not, the board of directors would face shareholder lawsuits from every angle, and rightly so.
In this story, the Denver taxpayers are the company’s shareholders. And as one of those shareholders, I am asking, is our company holding true to the proposition that “accountability for performance by all adults matters?”
If not, I am calling my lawyer. So should you.About the author
Christopher Scott and his wife are the parents of two kids living in Northwest Denver. His younger daughter attends a charter school in Jeffco and his older daughter attends Denver School of the Arts. He has a 20-plus year consulting career in process management and redesign, information architecture, and program management and evaluation.
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.
The House couldn’t find time on a chaotic Friday night to pass the bill proposing a massive overhaul of Colorado’s school funding system.
The bill came to the floor shortly after 3 p.m. But progress got derailed by a big blowup over a surprise amendment concerning what to do with new revenue that would flow to the state after a tax increase is approved by voters but before the money is needed to implement Senate Bill 13-213.
If voters approve a tax increase this fall, additional revenue would start flowing in 2014, but SB 13-213′s new costs wouldn’t kick in until July 1, 2015.
Realizing that problem at the 11th hour, supporters had an amendment drafted, and bill sponsor Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, formally proposed it after the bill came up on the House floor. The change would have put the extra 18 months of revenue into school construction and broadband upgrades, among other uses.
The amendment was a surprise to everyone, from minority Republicans to education lobbyists. After a few minutes of heated rhetoric on the floor and frantic texting in the lobby. Hamner withdraw the amendment and went off to huddle with Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, aides and other lawmakers.
A compromise was reached that proposes putting up to 40 percent of the revenue into a new education reserve fund, up to 40 percent into the Building Excellent Schools Today construction fund and smaller amounts into an educator effectiveness fund and an education technology fund.
But by then, SB 13-213 had lost its place in the big queue of bills on the House calendar. Members wrangled for hours over controversial energy conservation and marijuana bills. Hamner learned after 11 p.m. that SB 13-213 wouldn’t be brought back up.
The bill (and the amendment) now are on the calendar for Monday, the same day the House may hold preliminary debate on Senate Bill 13-260, the funding bill for the 2013-14 school year.
Once SB 13-213 clears the House it will return to the Senate for consideration of a long list of House amendments. However, there isn’t expected to be conflict over those changes, since the House changes were vetted ahead of time by the bill’s author, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.
While final legislative approval is nearing, that won’t be the last word for the bill. The bill requires a roughly $1 billion tax increase, which would have to be approved by voters.
Some of the bill’s supporters want a public vote this November, although it’s not certain that will happen. Coincidentally, the titles of 20 proposed ballot measures related to SB 13-213 were approved Friday by a state review board.Do your homework
Kathleen Gebhardt, lead lawyer in the Lobato v. State school funding lawsuit, appeared before the review board Friday morning with appeals to several of the proposed measures. The review panel, known formally as the Title Board, granted her appeals only in relation to one small wording change. Gebhardt told EdNews her intervention in the matter “wasn’t a hostile maneuver by any means” but an attempt to clarify how the complicated funding mechanisms actually would work in some of the proposals submitted by the business group Colorado Forum.
Gebhardt, who represents three private citizens on the issue, said she doesn’t know if they will take the matter to the Colorado Supreme Court, as is allowed on the wording of ballot measures.Long road for big bill
SB 13-213 started with a study process that began two years ago and involved hundreds of meetings and private conversations, most of them involving Johnston and his cosponsor, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder. But the bill’s progress through the legislature has been torturous.
Minority Republicans have consistently opposed the bill, saying it doesn’t contain enough education “reform” but really meaning that they oppose raising taxes.
Lobbying from a variety of education interest groups has forced a variety of significant changes in the bill. After all that work, few interest groups – ranging from charter schools to school districts to business groups – remain whole-hearted in their support, or in their opposition.Inside a much-amended bill
Weighing in at 189 pages (at last count), SB 13-213 is as intricately balanced as a big Swiss clock, and just as complicated. (One part of the bill includes a quadratic equation.)
During prior House floor debate, prime sponsor Hamner admitted that maybe the only people who understand it are school district chief financial officers. One education lobbyist, watching from the gallery, grimly quipped that even the CFOs may not know all the bill’s intricacies.
That said, here’s an overview of the bill’s main features, as the bill stood following House amendments.
When it starts: The law would go into effect for the 2015-16 school year, but only if voters approve an income tax increase in November 2013. The new funding system wouldn’t go into effect until voters approve the necessary tax increase and would expire entirely if no election is held – or is successful – by November 2017.
What it costs: The full annual cost of the bill, including spending that would have to be approved by future legislature, is about $1.1 billion. The increase in basic K-12 operating costs, known as total program funding, is just under $900 million a year. Current spending is about $5.2 billion in state and district funds.
How enrollment is counted: The basis of any school funding system is enrollment. The new system would measure enrollment based on a method called average daily membership, which counts actual district enrollment throughout the school year. The current system is based on attendance counted during a narrow time window around Oct. 1 each year.
Early childhood education: A key feature of the bill is funding for full-day kindergarten for all students who want it. (Kindergarten attendance is not mandatory in Colorado.) The bill also would fund half-day preschool for all three-, four- and five-year olds who are eligible for the Colorado Preschool Program, which serves poor children and those who have other defined risk factors. More than 46,000 students are enrolled in full-day kindergarten, and another 20,500 attend half day. Current preschool enrollment is about 20,000; it’s estimated that more than 14,000 at-risk four-year-olds currently don’t participate.
At-risk students and English language learners: The bill puts significant additional resources into districts with the highest percentages of at-risk students and English language learners.
• All districts would receive 120 percent of the statewide per-pupil base for each at-risk and ELL student.
• Districts whose enrollment of those students exceeds the statewide average (which stands at about 42 percent) would receive funding for those students of up to 140 percent of the statewide average.
• Students who are both at-risk and ELL will receive double funding for up to five years.
• The definition of at-risk is expanded to include students eligible for reduced-price lunch (about 60,000 students now). That’s on top of the approximately 289,000 students eligible for free lunch.
• A group of 15 districts would receive “supplemental” at-risk funding (about $274 per pupil in most cases). Those districts include Jefferson County, St. Vrain, Mesa Valley, Thompson, Brighton, Widefield and Pueblo 70, plus some smaller districts. Those districts felt they were slighted by the bill’s original provisions, and this amendment was added in the House. Another group of more than 80 districts are in a similar situation but wouldn’t receive additional funding.
Other adjustments for individual districts: The current system adjusts many districts’ funding based on size. Under the new system only districts with fewer than 4,023 students will receive additional funding for size. Another current “factor” provides extra money to many districts based on the cost of living for staff. That’s eliminated by SB 13-213. Some larger, primarily suburban districts with lower concentrations of poor students felt they were unfairly treated in the original version of the bill. In response to pressure, an amendment created “floor” funding for 31 districts equal to 95 of statewide average per-pupil funding. Additional, more technical safeguards also were built in for those districts.
Additional per-pupil funding: Under part of the bill called Teaching and Leadership Investment, every district would receive an additional $441 per pupil. This money is generally intended to help districts with the costs of implementing new content standards and tests, the new teacher evaluation system and other recently state-imposed reforms. The proposed amount was originally $600 a student, but that figure was cut to shift money to pay for other amendments to the bill. The amount gradually would rise to $600 depending on increases in revenue from the new taxes. The amount could go down if revenues from the new taxes decline.
Charter funding: This was a sore point as the bill moved through the legislature, with charters unsuccessfully lobbying for a requirement that local tax overrides be shared pro-rata with charters, something the school districts opposed. As it stands, the bill includes an override-sharing negotiations process between districts and charters. Charters that don’t like the way that turned out could switch their oversight to the state Charter School institute. The bill contains $18 million to partially compensate charters for facilities costs and creates a tiered system for allocating that money. The measure also would increase at-risk and ELL funding for charters and provide other increases for institute-supervised schools.
“Backpack” funding: Another hotly contested issue was how much autonomy principals would have in spending of at-risk and ELL funding provided by the state. Some education reform groups favor wide school-level autonomy, sometimes know as “backpack funding” or “money following the student.” The Colorado Association of School Boards opposed the bill’s original provisions as infringing on the constitutional powers of school boards. A compromise amendment adopted in the House gives district superintendents and boards oversight over principals’ spending plans.
Special education: The bill includes $80 million additional funding for what’s called Tier B special education support and would allocate additional funding as revenues from the next taxes increase over time. Tier B is for severely disabled students.
Innovation grant fund: The bill also proposes a $100 million fund that could be distributed to districts that apply for various education reforms. The bill originally envisioned most of that money being used for extended school days and years. But amendments added during the legislative debates have added other permissible uses, such as student retention. The grants would be administered by a new board appointed by the governor.
District tax increases: The bill would raise current ceilings on the amount of local tax increases, known as mill levy overrides, that districts can seek from voters. It also would permit new kinds of earmarked local tax increases, including for early childhood education, technology purchases and building maintenance and staff cost of living.
The bill also includes a calculation intended to determine which districts are raising less in local taxes than their property wealth would indicate. But amendments ensure that those districts wouldn’t ever be penalized and includes a “hold harmless” provision affecting 25 districts.
SB 13-213 also contains a provision for state matching funds to districts with low property values.
Accountability: Johnston likes to point out that the bill would provide an unprecedented amount of “transparency” about school and district spending. The bill requires periodic reports on both adequacy – whether schools are receiving enough money – and return on investment – whether the increased K-12 spending in yielding improved student achievement.
Miscellaneous provisions: The bill also includes additional, if relatively small, amounts of additional funding for teacher career development, gifted and talented students and for facilities schools, which serve students in detention and residential treatment.
Before it got mired in weightier matters, the House Friday voted 39-21 to pass a bill that designates rescue and shelter dogs and cats as the “official” state pets.
Similar bills are a tradition at the Capitol, but Senate Bill 13-201 got buffeted a bit by the contentious spirit of the 2013 session and actually had a lobbyist opposing it. The Colorado Association of Dog Clubs and the Colorado Pet Association (which includes pet stores) wanted the bill defeated, arguing it “discriminates” against pets available at outlets other than shelters.
The lobbying was unsuccessful, and the bill enjoyed comfortable majorities in both houses.
Several other education-related bills advanced on Friday.
The Senate gave 61-0 final approval to Senate Bill 13-217, which would give the State Board of Education flexibility in how it applies student performance at alternative education campuses to the accreditation ratings of school districts. This is an issue of some importance to low-rated districts with alternative schools.
The Senate also gave preliminary approval to three bills. House Bill 13-1117, a priority of the Hickenlooper administration, would consolidate several early childhood programs in the Department of Human Services. House Bill 13-1194 would make some military dependents eligible for resident tuition rates. House Bill 13-1005 would allow the community college system to create new programs that combine adult basic education and vocational training.
It wasn’t such a good day for two bills related to education task forces that operate during the legislative off-season.
A panel of legislative leaders killed House Bill 13-1244, which would have continued a group called the Educational Success Task Force. The panel also sent House Bill 13-1007 back to the appropriations committee, where it faces uncertain prospects. That bill proposes to revive a legislative early childhood study committee.
A crowd of Scottish Kings, princes of Denmark, Romans, pirates, fairies, star-crossed lovers and cross-dressing aristocrats — all of them enrolled in public school in Colorado — invaded downtown Denver Friday.
Denver school officials expected more than 5,000 students to participate in the district’s day-long Shakespeare Festival. Students gathered in Skyline Park and paraded to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where they performed scenes from Shakespeare’s plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and a version of Twelfth Night set in the American West. There were also performances of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Elizabethan musical and dance performances.
Here are some scenes from the day:
Students from HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-op will be presenting dance and choral performances, and the event will also feature an exhibit of their visual artwork. Although HOPE is an online school, students receive art lessons at various “Learning Centers” across the Front Range as part of the school’s “Arts Across Cultures” program.
The museum’s celebration, which is also being hosted by the Denver Public Library, the Clyfford Still Museum, the History Colorado Center and the Byers-Evans House Museum, is happening Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The event includes free admission and a variety of child-friendly activities at all five institutions.
Finally, an opportunity for teachers to get a leg up on their students when it comes to using an iPad.
Teachers in the Boulder Valley School District will get lots of tips Saturday as part of ”iPad Learning Day” at Centaurus High School. The professional development opportunity will offer new teaching tools and ideas in conjunction with iPads available for use in schools.
The event differs from many teacher training events because it is a “choose your own adventure” conference, through which educators will be able to choose which sessions will benefit them the most.
In addition, the event aims to enhance teachers’ and administrators’ knowledge of strategies and classroom uses with iPad apps; provide collaborative time with peers to create and share lesson content with other educators, especially with colleagues of same grade level and/or content area; and assist administrators in learning how to use the iPad in their schools and with their staffs.
iPad Learning Day is open to all educators in the district.
For more information or a detailed schedule of available sessions, please visit the iPad Learning Day website.
Today is officially a Day Without Hate in Jeffco schools.
Day Without Hate is a student-led, grassroots organization promoting nonviolence, respect and unity within Jeffco schools.
“I hope that for a few minutes, or a few hours, the students of Jeffco can set aside their differences and say hello to each other,” said Standley Lake High School teacher and event organizer Ben Reed. “I hope every student feels included and feels safe at school.”
Many Jeffco schools will hold events to highlight differences and diversity that will end at a district-wide rally featuring music from the Flobots and MTV’s The Buried Life at Jeffco Stadium, 500 Kipling St., in Lakewood.
Stadium gates open at 5 p.m. and admission is free to all Jeffco high school students and staff wearing any Day Without Hate T-Shirt. Shirts will also be sold at the gates for $8. More than 13,000 shirts were sold across Jeffco, Colorado and several states. The stadium event is meant for middle and high school students.
At least $4,000 in scholarships will be given away to students working to promote peace and nonviolence in Jeffco schools.
Colorado League of Charter Schools President Jim Griffin is stepping down in May, the organization announced Friday.
But Griffin, who has worked with the League almost since its founding in the 1990s, isn’t leaving the League — instead, he will lead the creation of a new venture in the organization. The new project will focus on national advocacy and providing services to organizations that support charter schools around the country.
The League’s Board of Directors also announced Friday that it has tapped Nora Flood, who is currently the group’s senior vice president of school services, to become the new president. Flood has worked with the League since 2008 providing support and technical assistance to schools.
Recently, Flood argued in EdNews Colorado that the proposed school funding overhaul should include more equitable financing for charter schools.
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.
Marko Babiak is only in sixth grade but he’s already making a difference in his community.
Marko, a former student at Steck Elementary who now attends Hamilton Middle School, is a student ambassador for Clothes to Kids. His goal is to place collection bins at 50 Denver schools where people can leave gently used or new clothing for needy Denver students.
Marko was the star of the show Wednesday as the first bin was placed at Steck during a public ceremony.
Since its launch in 2008, Clothes to Kids has provided more than 12,257 wardrobes to Denver students. Currently, the organization serves an average of 300 students per month.
Aurora Public Schools showed off its academic and career pathways program to the city’s mayor and other elected officials and community members Thursday morning.
Student demonstrators in elementary, middle and high schools showed off projects ranging from rocket launching to dentistry. The pathways program is a signature initiative in Aurora aimed at helping align what students learn in the district’s schools with the skills that are needed for success in higher education and the workforce. The model has attracted national attention; U.S. Secretary of State Arne Duncan said he was “inspired” by the program during a visit to the district last year.
Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, shares the CEA’s new Vision Statement and priorities of focus.
This is an exciting and challenging time to be an educator in Colorado. The education community is focused on the learning outcomes for students with the implementation of new statewide academic standards and the development of new assessments. We’re concentrating on effective teaching and leading with the statewide rollout of a new educator effectiveness evaluation system in 2013-14. And we’re attentive to the health and fortitude of the education system itself, discussing new ways of properly funding our schools to deliver a quality education to every child. Every educator in Colorado can tell you that all of these initiatives are coming together very quickly.
In a time of swift and momentous change such as this, the Colorado Education Association is proud to say we have supported education excellence in this state since 1875. Our members have a long, proud history of meeting student needs while adapting to the ever-changing education landscape. It’s a challenge to engage in the moment, to get caught up in the frenzy of that new introduced bill or that trendy reform idea, and still hold true to who we are and why we educate. Our members and the communities we serve need to know we will not lose sight of the basic core beliefs and principles that brought the Association forward through the longer journey and helped us stand the test of time.
This is why the CEA came to the conclusion that a healthy dose of soul searching was in order for this moment. Why do we do what we do, and why does it matter? What do students need as we consider system changes? How can we deliver the best possible education across very diverse student populations?
The product of our reflection is a pragmatic, positive Vision Statement to improve public education so that every student thrives.
Our Vision is a result of nearly a year-long process of thoughtful, inward examination to determine the guiding principles that would drive our public schools forward. We made extraordinary efforts to reach out to hundreds of our teachers and education support professionals from all corners of the state for their input. CEA dug deep into the issues surrounding how children grow and achieve, and how educators should be supported to create great learning opportunities.
The passions of our educators shine through in the CEA Vision, showing how we can shape the state education system to best improve our practice and make a difference in the lives of our students. Our Vision speaks to what we believe in our hearts will make Colorado the best state in which to live, to work, and to learn.
The committed and caring professionals of the CEA look forward to engaging in conversations in every community. We invite policy makers, education groups, business leaders, parents and communities to see how the daily practitioners of education view the road ahead for Colorado classrooms. We are pleased to share our Vision with you, and will work collectively to provide the best public education for every student.About the author
Kerrie Dallman is president of the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest education organization advocating for public schools, students and professional educators. She previously served as president of the Jefferson County Education Association, representing all licensed, non-administrative employees in Jeffco Public Schools, Colorado’s largest school district.